In the New York Times article and interview with Lenovo’s CTO, the reporter Nicole Perlroth does a good job of grilling the well prepped official for information of just how could they let something this bad happen. It drives me so crazy that the computer industry can’t get it’s act together to fight this very real and very dangerous problem. Writhing like an oily eel, the Lenovo CTO attempts to placate the angry mob outside the castle walls with basically ‘we didn’t know how bad it was’ and ‘but it wasn’t really us, we were just trying to improve the consumer experience’.
I call Shenanigans. Pants on Fire.
First off, all these OEM’s know exactly what they’re doing when they put these programs on a new PC. It’s not customer experience improvement (really? you think putting software that shows me more ads on the PC is in ANY WAY helpful?). They’re doing it for cash. Sweet, sweet cash. And from reports, actually not even very much cash. Some things they bundle on as part of the package (like Office trial) can be selling points to differentiate their brand–but those are few and far between. Most is crapware–buggy, poorly built, badly designed, rarely checked, outdated software nobody wants.
The interview is uncomfortable but satisfying in the same way watching a crooked politician explain an incident with a hooker caught on film by paparazzi. But I have no sympathy for these guys. They’ve ruined the PC experience for almost 20 years with this stuff, it’s just that now we have even creepier bottom feeder companies like SuperFish out there willing to break the security of the internet for money. And all these companies are ramping up and salivating over how they can do this to Android (don’t think they haven’t already started).
I think we’ve reached peak crapware. It’s time to put an end to this. Pressure has to be applied industry wide against these practices, shame has to be leveled at them, and each and every flaw has to be exposed to wear these idiot OEM’s down until they JUST. STOP. DOING. IT.
And we need to reward companies that do stop. We need to be willing to pony up a little more money for clean systems that we can at least feel secure about. We need to reward companies like Dell and Vizio that try to do this on their own with business, or only buying Signature versions of a machine you want. They need to get the message.
The message is a simple one: Do not preinstall any software on a new PC apart from drivers that may be required for your hardware (and REALLY be sure about those). If you want to make offers, put a code in the box that the user can go install. Or maybe even a cheap USB stick with the add-on’s. It needs to be clean, secure, fast–and if it is, you get the credit! Win. Win.
OEMs, you are on notice. Don’t make fun of Lenovo (I’m looking at you HP) when your machines are jammed to capacity with this crap. Do you know every line of code in that game downloader, DVD picture maker, or ‘shopping assistant’? No? THEN DON’T PUT IT ON. In fact, save us all the headache and don’t put any of it on.
Get out in front of this before someone drops a house on you, ask Lenovo how long it’s going to take them to rebound and build back trust. Do it now. If not for your customers, for your craven sense of self preservation.