Monday, March 24, 2008

Sony changes plan to charge for removing 'bloatware'

When you buy a new OEM machine, it comes with a lot of programs that are on trial, such as anti-virus software trial versions, and numerous other software. There are 2 advantages for the makers of these software as well as for the computer manufacturers. The software makers depend on a proportion of consumers becoming attracted enough towards these applications that they are willing to pay for buying these programs. Getting these softwares pre-installed on the machine helps expose them to a much higher number of consumers and increases the chances of conversion. For this advantage, these trial software makers pay computer manufacturers for the chance of placing their software on these machines. It is estimated that xomputer manufacturers can make more than $50 per machine from such software.
For a vast majority of the final consumers / buyers of the machine, these software consume hard disk space, as well as run all the time slowing the machine down. Most consumers will not know how to remove such software, and suffer. For an advanced user, the options include removing the programs one by one, or by doing a fresh install on the machine that will remove these software, called 'bloatware'. So, imagine the pleasure of consumers when Sony declared that it will give a machine that does not come pre-loaded with such software; then this pleasure turned to shock when they found out that Sony will charge them $49.99 for removing this bloatware. There was a strong reaction to such a move; imagine paying extra to have the manufacturer not loading extra stuff on the machine:

"Bloatware" is a term that is familiar to many new computer buyers. Most new computers come saddled with HDD and memory-robbing applications like trial versions of antivirus programs, various desktop search and chat applications, or perennial offenders like Adobe Acrobat. Computer makers rely on these add-on programs to generate additional revenue in the age of decreasing computer prices -- bloatware can add as much as $60 in additional revenue for each computer sold.
Sony, however, made the unwise decision to charge customers a $49.99 fee for the bloatware removal. Whether the charge was intended to somewhat makeup for the estimated $60 windfall from the application publishers or just an effort to squeeze more money from its customers remains to be seen. News of the $49.99 Fresh Start fee quickly spread around the Internet Saturday with sites taking Sony to task over the blunder. Sony quickly recoiled and removed the Fresh Start fee.

This quick reaction by consumers and Sony's quick acceptance of this customer outrage shows that corporations are quickly cottoning onto the fact that customers, especially in this age of quick communications can turn reactions against a company very fast. Sony last suffered such a bad reaction over their Rootkit fiasco, and the prolonged bad press at that time would have made them much nimbler this time.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Some of Microsoft's dealings with Intel and HP revealed

It is not often that the internal dealings of a company such as Microsoft are released to the public for analysis, especially when it deals with the interaction of the company with other major chip and computer manufacturers such as HP and Intel. But, a federal class-action lawsuit provides access to internal emails that are worrisome to customers who have bought machines labeled Vista capable; they can no longer be sure that the certification provided by Microsoft to such machines is genuine. Read this article and these excerpts to understand more:

But documents show that in early 2006, a full year before Vista's release, there was intense discord within Microsoft over its dealings with Intel, HP and others in preparing to roll out the new system. The documents suggest Microsoft bowed to Intel's pressure in certifying certain chips as capable of running the new operating system to enhance sales. Intel declined to comment on assertions that it had pressured Microsoft. "It's private litigation between plaintiffs and Microsoft, and we're not a party to it," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said.
At issue is whether Microsoft misled customers by labeling PCs carrying the Intel 915 chipset as "Vista Capable" when they were put on sale in spring 2006, ahead of the much-anticipated launch of the Vista operating system. Only computers labeled "Premium Ready" carried the more advanced Intel 945 chip and could operate Vista's touted features, such as Aero graphics.

If all this is true, it is tantamount to deceiving computers. Customers buying computers do not have the technical competency to evaluate whether a particular chip and computer were capable of running Vista; if the certification says that the chip is capable, the customer would believe so.