Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe
marypcb

Controversial headline, controversial subject

It's hard to get people on the record about things that are controversial to customers and sound business sense to vendors; dubious labour practices in the developing world, the tensions of partnering with competitors, where search engines make their money, bundled applications...

We call it crapware, PC makers call it differentiation, value add and an alternative revenue stream. PC buyers get free, discount or at least pre-installed software, vendors get money; what's not to like? Slowing down your PC, clogging up Windows and requiring you to know what's worth keeping and what you should delete on sight (and how to get rid of the most persistent offenders), that's what's not to like. Crapware makes Windows look bad - and it makes PC makers look bad when grindingly slow security software grinds older PCs to a literal halt. I don't want it on phones either, which is why I'm delighted that all network and OEM apps can be installed in Windows Phone 7 (the HTC Evo I brought back from the US is forever cursed with Sprint sports apps and I used to resent getting out-of-date Yahoo! mobile tools on Windows Mobile, all taking up precious space). Microsoft can't tell PC makers what to put in their copies of Windows (that's one of the results of the DoJ case against Microsoft) but I still expect them to be naming and shaming apps, device drivers and OEM crapware setups that make Windows look bad.

When I praised the Internet Explorer team for doing just that with add-ins, I was delighted to get some hard figures from  Mike Angiulo, the corporate vice president of the Microsoft Planning and PC Ecosystem team on where the decisions to do that kind of thing come from. He talked about how things were much worse in the Vista days, calling it "kind of the worst era of PCs when nobody was thinking about the final PC as an end-to-end system" and he's right - but crapware is still endemic. Every new machine we've seen recently apart from the Sony VAIO P has been loaded with a mix of useful tools and performance-killing crapware. Microsoft needs to keep applying pressure, which is what I say in the piece...

I've had some feedback about the headline the piece was published under ('Microsoft slams OEM crapware') being, shall we say, on the negative side. All headlines are there to grab your attention, and I think this is a topic that needs to get some attention. I expect a headline that like will cause some headaches in Redmond if the OEM partners take it personally, but I also know that every time I write a piece on this topic I get feedack from readers that they want the PC makers to hear the pain crapware causes them and the mistakently-bad impression of Windows it gives people. I'm going to keep saying that Microsoft has a hard job to do here, but it has to keep the pressure on.

Windows Phone 7 is doing the right thing here. When I asked Oded Ran about removing network or OEM apps from devices, he gave exactly the right answer. The phone buyer is the customer, it's their phone and they can do what they want; any app can be hidden - or uninstalled really easily. It takes seconds. Getting unwanted extras off a PC should be just as easy and fast. If PC makers want to add value and get their software bounty, create a Device Stage that offers the apps and lets me install them if I want - don't pre-install them, have them all start up and make it hard to unweave add-ins, plugins, toolbars, updaters and the rest just to get back to the Windows should have been when I first turned it on. Or as Mike Angiulo put it, bundled software is great "if it's executed well and it makes sense and it doesn't degrade the core performance of the PC". Maybe a few controversial headlines will make sure the PC makers keep listening to him...
Tags: articles, crapware, ie9, internet explorer, rant, techradar, windows phone 7, writing
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