Microsoft Signature program: Bringing the Apple experience to the PC

The Microsoft Signature program aims to eliminate the frustrating out-of-box experience common with new Windows PCs.

Chances are you have experienced one of life's most frustrating moments when you have purchased a new PC. You take the PC out of the box, turn it on, and then spend hours dealing with the crapware and out-of-date software that comes installed by the OEM. My most recent episode of this nature cost me literally hours of pure frustration, not the out-of-box experience (OOBE) that any company wants to inflict on a new customer. Microsoft realizes that this practice of OEMs selling PCs bearing Windows reflects poorly on it, and is using the Signature program along with its retail stores to do something about it.

In a recent conversation with the Microsoft folks behind the Signature program, it is clear the company realizes how poorly the OOBE for new PCs is compared to those of competitor Apple. Apple has stuck to its guns and makes sure that every Mac sold can be up and running in just a few minutes, without frustration. That is the goal behind the Microsoft Signature experience.

Microsoft is at a disadvantage in this area as OEMs are free to release PCs as they want. This is the reason for all the trialware, crapware or whatever you want to call it. Typically when you buy a new PC you have to wade through a horrible installation process for the crapware, and removing it ratchets up the frustration level even higher. The OEM goal is to maximize revenue from the crapware companies at the expense of customer satisfaction.

All PCs sold in a Microsoft retail store are Signature PCs. This means no crapware, and that Microsoft engineers have produced a Windows install image that is designed to be trouble-free. The objective with Signature PCs is to have new customers up and running, happily, in 15 minutes.

It accomplishes this OOBE by doing more than simply removing the crapware. The entire Windows environment on a Signature PC has been vetted to eliminate problems for that particular system. Every system has the latest device drivers, and the Windows image is the latest possible. This means the initial Windows Update doesn't have to update much, speeding up that part of the initial process.

I am impressed with the effort Microsoft is putting into the Signature program. While customers are buying PCs built by other companies, it is Microsoft's image that suffers with the normal purchase process. Those of us buying Windows PCs are Microsoft's customers too, and we deserve no less than a frustration-free OOBE.