Crapware Costs You Time, But Makes Them Money - InformationWeek

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Commentary
3/22/2008
12:57 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
Commentary
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Crapware Costs You Time, But Makes Them Money

It's an unfortunate fact that most Windows-based systems are filled with crapware when they're delivered. This unwanted software has a limited lifetime or crippled functionality. When its teaser trial is up, you either succumb to its incessant pleas for money or find a way to uninstall it. Last week, Sony put forth a solution. For a mere $50 more, it would deliver a system that is the way it should be -- free

It's an unfortunate fact that most Windows-based systems are filled with crapware when they're delivered. This unwanted software has a limited lifetime or crippled functionality. When its teaser trial is up, you either succumb to its incessant pleas for money or find a way to uninstall it. Last week, Sony put forth a solution. For a mere $50 more, it would deliver a system that is the way it should be -- free of crapware. After a harsh reception all over the Internet, Sony backed down and now says it will send you a system sans crapware for no extra charge.Sony's proposition was interesting because it exposed some shameful math. System makers profit from crapware, so they are reluctant to send customers a system that makes them less money after the sale. In some cases, crapware vendors pay system makers for each system that goes out the door with their software. Other deals cut the system maker in for money if the user signs up later. With terms like those, most computer makers think they can't lose by loading up systems with all the crapware that fits.

Sony's deal wasn't that far from one that Michael Dell himself discussed last January. System makers want that money, and they don't seem to be afraid of pissing off their customers to get it. Their thinking seems to be, "If you don't want an inferior product, then pay us more and well take the crapware off the system." By publicly acknowledging this crass calculation, Sony acted as a lightning rod for a practice that's par for the industry.

No doubt, Microsoft would love to see crapware disappear because it ruins the user experience. The Windows logo is front and center, so users often blame Windows for their computer maker's bad decisions. In the past, Microsoft has tried to control the crapware situation, only to be attacked for antitrust concerns; Microsoft can't solve this problem. To be sure, Microsoft's hands aren't totally clean on crapware either. Windows Media Player has its own bloat and music deals that greedily demand your attention.

To take just one example, do we really need Napster, Rhapsody, MusicMatch, iTunes, and others pre-installed on our systems to steal file associations and beg for money? When I want to play a .wav file I would just appreciate it if the sound came out of the speakers -- and nothing more.

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