The issue of shovel-ware has long been a thorn in the side of Microsoft and its attempts at improving the Windows experience. Companies such as Dell, Lenovo, HP, Acer, and Sony have a nasty habit of loading up computers with trial software and redundant programs that duplicate the functionality of Windows. I can’t help but think of my Uncle’s Windows XP desktop that came pre-loaded with an HP branded start center that did nothing but give shortcuts to things that could be easily found under the Start menu. It is these types of programs that ruin the “new computer” experience. Companies like Best Buy make easy money by offering to remove these programs when their customers buy a new computer. There is something inherently wrong in buying a new computer and then having to pay an extra 50 dollars just to remove the unwanted programs that are forced down consumers throats. It turns out that Microsoft agrees.
According to this article over at Ars Technica, Microsoft has begun selling computers that have had the shovel-ware and the free trials removed. What you get when you buy direct from Microsoft is a brand name computer that has a relatively clean install of Windows 7. There are other apps on the computers, but they tend to be programs you would download anyway such as Flash and Silverlight.
Not only has Microsoft been doing this at their one current retail location, they are also apparently expanding this practice to the online Microsoft store. Which means that if you buy direct from Microsoft you get a computer that is ready to use out of the box. This is a great strategy and I believe a lot more people would choose to buy a clean computer through Microsoft than a bloated system from anyone else – although they seemingly haven’t done much to get the word out.
I’m not sure how the computer retailers and computer makers will feel about this though, having Microsoft not only compete with them in sales but also by openly admitting that those same makers have been burdening their buyers with pre-installed shovel-ware. What would be nice would be to see the computer makers follow suite and start shipping computers with a clean install of Windows 7, but it would likely be hard to break decades of bad habits. I almost expect to see Microsoft putting out a computer of their own. It wouldn’t be that hard for them to put together the parts, all they would need to do is come up with case designs. Once they do that, they can control the user experience from end to end, which seems to be what they are moving towards.