First Windows 8 PCs appear early, crapware included

First Windows 8 PCs appear early, crapware included

Summary: Microsoft's official launch party for Windows 8 is still weeks away, but one well-known retailer has jumped the gun. Cable shopping giant HSN has five Windows 8 PCs for sale on the web. All are, unfortunately, fully loaded.

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Updated October 8: Microsoft and Acer have asked HSN to remove the PCs from sale until the embargo date of October 26. See comments from Microsoft and Acer at end of story.

Windows 8 doesn’t officially go on sale until October 26, but at least one high-volume retailer has jumped the gun on PC sales.

Over the weekend, HSN.com, the online edition of the Home Shopping Network, offered a special on two new Gateway notebook PCs with Windows 8 preinstalled. A search turned up a total of 5 Acer and Gateway machines (Gateway is a division of Acer) available for sale today, with Windows 8 installed. A customer service representative confirmed that all five models are in stock and will ship immediately when ordered.

HSN-windows8-early-lineup

The details page of this Acer all-in-one PC makes it clear that it comes with Windows 8, not just an option to upgrade in the future.

HSN-windows8-acer-details

The specs spell out that this is the 64-bit Windows 8--the base edition, not Windows 8 Pro.

I asked HSN customer service if the five listed PCs were available for immediate shipment and received a reply within minutes: "All 5 computers are in stock and will ship right away when ordered." The offer pages for the Gateway models say customers "should expect delivery within 12 days of their order date."

And there's no question these models were designed to be sold with Windows 8—that’s the new Windows 8 logo on the keyboard of this Gateway notebook, which is powered by a current-generation Core i5 CPU.

HSN-windows8-logo-key

The Gateway all-in-one has an identical Windows 8-style logo key on the keyboard and this sticker on the PC itself:

HSN-gateway-windows-logo

In terms of basic engineering, there are a few small touches to distinguish these models from equivalent Windows 7 PCs. Two of the notebooks appear to have new trackpads that allow swiping from the edges to enable the Charms menu, app switching, and other gesture-based parts of the Windows 8 UI. The Acer notebook and both all-in-ones are equipped with touchscreens.

Unfortunately, the detailed specs also suggest that OEMs are still hooked on crapware. The Acer all-in-one includes this list of programs under the heading “Preinstalled Software”:

  • Microsoft Office 2010 (60-day trial) 
  • Acer Portal
  • Acer Games
  • Acer Recovery Management
  • Nero 12 Essentials
  • Adobe Reader 
  • Norton Internet Security Suite (60-day trial)

The Gateway notebook includes a similar list:

  • Microsoft Office 2010 (60-day trial) 
  • CyberLink PowerDVD 
  • Gateway MyBackup Solution 
  • Gateway Games  Powered by WildTangent (10 demo games with 60 minutes of game play)
  • Gateway Recovery Management
  • Adobe Reader 
  • Adobe Flash
  • Norton Internet Security (60-day trial)

The Acer notebook (with 10-finger touch capabilities) includes a 60-day McAfee trial as well as Office 2010 Starter:

HSN-preinstalled-software

That’s actually a little better than the load of junk I found when I looked at a trip of notebooks a year ago (see “On consumer PCs, crapware is still a performance-sapping nuisance”), but the devil’s in the details. That PowerDVD program is probably the stripped-down version stuffed with upsells, and it’s annoying to see those Wild Tangent games, which are a pain to uninstall.

Both the Gateway and Acer units also toss in something called the “PC Essentials 22A Standard Software DVD,” which is a classic collection of shovelware. The 19 included programs are the very antithesis of what one expects in a modern PC, with a bunch of Corel products (Office, PaintShop Pro X4, and PDF Fusion) and a scrapbooking program and My Perfect Wedding Planner and TurboFloorPlan 3D Home & Landscape Deluxe 16 and a whole lot more. That might be exactly what the HSN audience wants. As long as the contents of that DVD aren’t preinstalled, I’d classify the programs as “mostly harmless.”

The HSN web page does include five interesting videos under the “Watch and Learn” heading, to help educate the shopping masses. They’re made by HSN and hosted by an HSN “technology expert,” not supplied by an OEM. To my eyes, they seemed a bit frantic, but I’m not a regular on any modern shopping channels so maybe that fast-talking, almost breathless presentation is the way these will systems will be sold online as well.

It’s a shame to see all of that junk show up alongside Windows 8. Microsoft is phasing out the Office 2010 Starter edition and removed the OEM installation files back in June. At that time, a Microsoft spokesperson told Mary Jo Foley, “After Windows 8 becomes available, most new PCs shipped will not have Office Starter.”

I guess no one at Gateway or Acer got the memo.

Meanwhile, come October 26 I’ll be looking carefully at new Windows 8 PCs from other OEMs to see whether they’ve carried over those old, crapware-loving ways. I’ll also be taking a fresh look at Microsoft’s Signature program to see which PC models are available in junk-free configurations.

A quick check of other leading shopping sites, including Amazon.com and Walmart.com, shows no Windows 8 PCs available for sale elsewhere. (Newegg has a "Coming October 26th" page, and Walmart has a large selection of Windows 7 PCs that include Windows 8 upgrade options.) I've asked Microsoft for comment on the unexpected presale and will update this post when I hear back.

Update: Via Twitter, a reader reminds me that Acer chairman J.T. Wang urged Microsoft to "think twice" about its plans to release the Surface PC. These designs suggest that Microsoft did exactly that and decided that it needed to offer an alternative to crapware-infested PCs like these.

Update 2, October 8, 5:00AM PDT - A Microsoft spokesperson responds:

Unfortunately, HSN made this offer without the support or authorization of Microsoft.

Microsoft and major retailers are getting ready for general availability of Windows 8 devices on 10/26 and not prior to that date. Once Microsoft learned of the HSN promotion, we contacted them and asked that they discontinue the on-air and online offer since it is not yet 10/26, the date that marks the official availability of Windows 8.

An e-mailed statement included this quote from Peter Han, Microsoft's VP, US OEM: "We are looking forward to Windows 8 General Availability on October 26, when customers can take delivery of Windows 8 PCs at retail for the first time."

The e-mail also included this quote from Scott Ledterman, Acer's VP, US Consumer: "We are excited to support Windows 8 with great Acer and Gateway offerings starting on October 26, but this HSN offer came prematurely and we've requested its immediate removal."

Update 3, 8:00 AM PDT October 8: All five products are still listed on HSN's website, but attempting to purchase one results in this message: "We're sorry, this product has sold out and is no longer available."

See also:

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, PCs, Windows

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135 comments
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  • Anti-Virus

    You would think that with Windows 8 coming standard with built in Anti-Malware software they would lay off with the crapware...but then again, they're probably getting some kickback.
    I will still recommend a full clean install when ever you buy a new PC.
    DreyerSmit
    • Agreed

      I wonder if Windows 8's feature to completely wipe the PC back to its base configuration would wipe Norton and all that other crapware? If it does (and my fingers are well crossed for this one), that would be a massive boon. Crapware is the BIGGEST reason Windows PCs get such a bad rap.
      Fools_Muse
      • It should unless the maker specifically has 'messed' with the Refresh

        Enough said.
        Lerianis10
      • Remember, the Windows 8 refresh / re-install requires ...

        ... installation media.

        Most new PC's don't give you installation media. You are advised instead to create recovery media (now called a "recovery drive"). I'd bet you dollars to donuts that process includes crapware on the "recovery drive".
        M Wagner
      • True enough, crapware comes by its name honestly.

        The whole crapware issue should prove to everyone just how little Joe Average really understands about his own computer. Its reasonable evidence that right up to this day and age the vendors get enough milage out of crapware piggybacking on new OS's that that someone is actually putting this crapware to use often enough to make it worthwhile for them to keep fouling up new machines with it.

        Some people cannot get it through their head that all software is not good software. That would seem obvious, but clearly there are still far too many who just cannot see that plain simple fact.
        Cayble
        • Microsoft innocent?

          So, you suggest Microsoft knows nothing and has no contractual tools to force those OEMs to NOT install any crapware?

          They all, are participating in this.
          danbi
      • Why is Norton considered 'crapware'?

        I know that the others most likely are that, and hog up most of the memory on a laptop, but Norton should be considered as important as the DVD-ROM drive and the product key for Windows 8, because it keeps your computer safe.
        Fantomex1
        • Because not everyone wants a bloated A/V

          Some people consider the full Norton suite to be bloatware as it has gotten bigger over the years and takes more cpu cycles to run. Granted, PCs are more powerful and Norton claims to have optimised their software, but a 60 day trial is still trying to get you to buy something when there are better free Anti Virus programs out there.
          swattz101
    • Probably?

      These OEM's are DEFINITELY getting paid for pre-installing all this trial/crapware.

      This is why I now buy ALL my PC's directly from Microsoft's own stores or online: PC's sold by Microsoft have a crapware/trialware-free optimized build of Windows + (tested & measured) drivers + SecurityEssentials (for Win7) + LiveEssentials (for Win7) and that's it. No trial versions of 3rd party anti-malware, backup, DVD, etc. trialware continually nagging you to buy it lest your machine burn to the ground!
      bitcrazed
      • Or you can get a hold of an official ISO image for Windows 8

        It is easy enough to remove the key that came with the ISO media. After you install Windows 8 from the pristine media, you should be able to activate it using the OEM key which is on the bottom/back of your new PC.
        M Wagner
        • OEM activation from the original OEM media?

          With Windows 7, you can't use the generic DVD to install on an branded OEM computer by using that computer's Windows key. Microsoft has insisted that those OEMs add special (crypto signed, in theory) code block in the computer's BIOS in order to recognise it as an OEM computer and not require individual license key. Each vendor's Windows version is different and the crapware is usually already on the installation disk. Some vendors put the crapware on a separate disk, but that's usually happening for the professional prices PCs.

          Of course, you can always purchase an "full retain version" of Windows from Microsoft and install a "pristine" Windows version. It just adds some additional cost.
          danbi
          • Uh...

            What are you talking about? You CAN use a "generic DVD" to install on a branded OEM computer. Whenever one of my family gets a new laptop, I make sure to wipe the crapware off their PC by downloading an equivalent ISO from DigitalRiver (Home Premium usually) and then inserting the key that is found on the bottom of the laptop during/after install and activating. It works fine, and all laptops are considered activated + genuine.

            I have no idea what you're getting at.
            James Forward
      • Crap Free PC's

        Vizio has a new line of PC's that have the Optimized Build of Windows Installed with no Crap Ware and they are advertised as such. They can be checked out online! Ultra Book, very nice $599 and All-In-One with 27" Ultra Thin Screen $799 at Walmart!
        kmorgan552@...
        • "optimized"?

          What are the technical specs for that thing? Vizio is not known for quality gear, so "optimized" only makes me chortle with guffaws.

          I suspect the components are generic, with a lamentable TN-based panel, with Vizio doing no technical work to optimize ANYTHING (Intel or nVidia or whoever doing all of that work)... but by "optimized" you probably mean "off the shelf" Windows that does not contain the crapware.

          If it's truly optimized, I'll see that in due course. But if I made a product, like most companies, I would follow the rule: "Do the least amount of work possible to achieve the highest profit." This means I'll do more to sell the image of "optimized" than to actually do the work... so, now call me "lazy"... and figure out how many people genuinely are in the end...

          And good for walmart.
          HypnoToad72
      • Yup. I build my own. For years.

        If I end up with some kind of crapware floating around my machine I want it to be the result of my own stupidity, not through the efforts of some OEM in collusion with some 3rd party provider.

        And people wonder why Microsoft built the Surface. One thing seems clear, they want at least one device thats not unfairly burdened by junk.
        Cayble
        • I've built my own for years as well

          Only if I install everything that came with the system board DVD/CD did crapware (of any sort) get put in. The OEM edition of Windows is as pure as the snow (before Fido gets to it...)

          At least Microsoft provided a design for the OEMs to compete against. Not that it would take much... :)
          HypnoToad72
        • Hear Hear.

          Ma also too.

          Gotta buy a couple W7 licenses to store away for future projects.
          fairportfan
          • Oopsie

            "Me", not "Ma"
            fairportfan
          • did it

            i have 3 oems one home version and two pro versions
            sarai1313@...
        • RE:Build your own

          Does that include laptops.
          chris@...