Hope for the future

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2007-05-25 Print this article Print

Still, people get mad. The anti-crapware movement is nothing new. For years many observers have complained about OEMs pre-overloading their PCs with unwanted programs to the point that theyre slow on the day you get them. I think the tide is going to turn soon. Look for OEMs to start offering more flexibility to customers, perhaps up to the point of "naked Windows PCs," meaning just Windows is installed, as an option.

Several months ago, Dell started a site called Idea Storm asking customers what they wanted in Dell products. This site may have had a lot to do with Dells offering of Linux preloaded on consumer PCs (will we soon have open-source crapware for them?).

But before the site got slashdotted, one of the top suggestions was that preinstalled software must be optional. The original poster suggested that OOBE (out of box experience) include a screen where you choose which of the preloaded programs should be installed. I have a better idea: put that screen on the Web page when you order the system.

Anything thats not in a standard Windows installation or part of an essential device driver should be in this list. Some things are a better idea to remove than others; for instance, if you buy a DVD drive, perhaps you want that crippled version of WinDVD. But you may not want three extra toolbars in Internet Explorer. These things are subjective. There was a time just a few years ago when the idea of bundling a Web browser with PCs was controversial. The important thing is to give the customer control over the configuration of the PC.

And it looks like Dell listened. This is about as low-key an announcement as youll find, but the "preinstalled software must be optional" suggestion is tagged as "**COMING SOON**" on the Dell site. I take this to mean that they will be offering some version of user control of crapware, although what and when are not specified.

Google has a unique perspective on the problem of Web-based exploits, but is it a useful one? Click here to read more.

Im especially curious what they will do about the revenue problem: How will they make up the money lost from users who dont want the crapware? I dont expect them to just eat it or to presume that they will make it up in extra sales because of the feature. Perhaps they will make it up in lower support costs.

This is a good thing for security as well as the general user experience with PCs. The less stuff is running on the PC the more stable it will be. Lets hope Dell does the right thing and that it becomes a market imperative for all OEMs to make a similar offer.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers blog Cheap Hack More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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