For years, computer users have been turning to each other on the Internet for technical help, largely in support forums. It's there where people - presumably IT experts or enthusiasts - share tips, links and instructions on how to perform basic maintenance.
Now, a company called Slimware Utilities is looking to tap into the expertise of those same types of folks to populate a new cloud-based PC optimization product called SlimCleaner. Think of it like Yelp for IT. By rating files as good, bad or optional, the collective experts in the cloud can empower consumers to perform their own maintenance.
Mind you, these are all things that a consumer could have done in the past by surfing the support forums and clicking into forbidden territory deep into the computer's file tree. With Slimware, those files and folders are all accessible right there for consumers, packaged in a fun, colorful user interface screen.
Does this sound dangerous to anyone else?
I'm not opposed to the idea of empowering consumers to keep their PCs clean and I certainly like the idea of bringing the expertise of the forums into a cloud-based interface that keeps the files in order. What concerns me is the idea of giving consumers the power to simply click a box and have a file or folder uninstalled from the PC.
The thing about the forums is that they not only gave us the tools that we needed to delete some files or install some updates, but they also educated us about the why, how and what next of a tech problem. warning us along the way of possible trouble spots.
If the Slimware products had been targeted at IT professionals, I might be less bothered that the products don't have some sort of feature to educate and/or warn users that they're starting to tinker with critical files. But this product is targeted at everyday consumers - the friends, family and neighbors who will eventually be calling their IT friends for help fixing whatever it is they messed up.
You know who you are.
Luckily, the products are all in beta, which gives the team the time it needs to incorporate some safeguards and educational features before it goes prime time with a paid version of the software suite sometime in the future.
Slimware launched its suite of products, which included SlimCleaner, at the Black Hat conference last month. Also in the suite is SlimDriver, which stabilizes and optimizes the connections between the PC and things like sound cards, printers, Bluetooth devices. Finally, SlimComputer is designed to remove unused, pre-installed software from new computers.