The blogosphere is buzzing today with contempt for Sony, which just outlined its Fresh Start program and immediately ran into a buzzsaw of criticism for its plan to charge $49.99 for the privilege of getting a crapware-free PC. The echo chamber at Techmeme is working overtime, led by Engadget: "Sony has the nerve to offer a $50 'Fresh Start' option, which 'scrubs' the machine clean before shipping it your way." My colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has a typical reaction:
To get a craplet-free Vaio TZ2000 I’d have to pay Sony an extra $50 just to remove all the junk software that it installed on the system that I don’t want in the first place?
As it turns out, I’ve been working closely with a pair of Sony notebooks for the past two weeks, both of them offering a truly miserable experience, due in no small measure to the amount of crap/trialware installed. This morning, I had a previously scheduled interview with Sony’s Mike Abary, Senior Vice President of the VAIO division. In what must be the fastest turnaround in corporate history, Abary told me that the $49.99 charge is dead. “We didn’t intend that to happen,” he said, blaming the snafu on an internal miscommunication. “We’re removing the $49 charge,” he told me. Beginning this spring and rolling out to all products through the end of the year, there will be no charge to order a custom-configured Sony VAIO computer, and you will be able to opt out of every trialware application, without exceptions.
“We heard the message loud and clear,” Abary told me. “VAIO is the poster child for negative experiences people had [with trialware]. We recognize that, and we acknowledge it. We’ve been really beat up by this issue. We’re listening and we’re taking action.”
I’ll have more on my experiences next week. I’ve also arranged with Sony to be one of the first to order a PC through the Fresh Start program, so I can tell you exactly what it’s like.
Update: Wired received the same report from a Sony spokesperson this morning, around the same time I did.