Will people be willing to pay Microsoft to remove the crapware that the OEMs install on new PCs? Microsoft thinks they will.
For around two and a half years, Microsoft has been offering what it calls Signature editions of certain PCs. According to Microsoft, these PCs give you faster and easier access to "the applications you want right away without getting sidetracked talking to trialware or other sample software".
In other words, when you boot up your new PC, instead of having to deal with a blizzard of pop-ups and dialog boxes related to trialware and demo software -- collectively known as crapware -- the system boots to a clean Windows desktop.
Microsoft even offers up numbers to show how detrimental this OEM-installed crapware is to your system. Microsoft claims that Signature systems start up 39 percent faster, go into sleep mode 23 percent faster, and resume from sleep a whopping 51 percent faster compared to their crapware-ladened counterparts.
So far, Signature has been limited to new PCs. But now, Microsoft will offer customers the opportunity to give their Windows 7 PC the Signature treatment by bringing it to a Microsoft Store and paying $99, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"Microsoft also offers a program that, for $99, will turn users' Windows 7 PCs into Signature versions, if the owner brings the computer into one of its 16 stores, due to grow to 21 outlets in coming months," writes Mossberg. "All Signature computers come with 90 days of free phone support, as well as help at the stores' 'Answer Desks,' which are like the Genius Bars at Apple stores."
Mossberg has been testing three Signature models and comparing them with the same machines as sold elsewhere without the Signature modifications and reports that the Signature versions are much cleaner, easier to navigate, and faster in a variety of tests.
So, is the Signature treatment worth $99? According to Mossberg, it is.
"In my opinion, although it may generally benefit Microsoft at the expense of the hardware maker, it also makes for a better experience for the user."
This is where I have to disagree with Mossberg. This isn't an example of Microsoft benefiting at the expense of the hardware makers, it's Microsoft benefiting at the expense of consumers. The hardware makers have already been paid to install the crapware.
Let's follow the money. The OEMs are paid by a variety of software makers to install crapware onto systems. The OEMs don't disclose how much money they receive from this, but sources tell me that it works out at a few dollars per PC. That doesn't sound like much, but multiply that across millions of PCs and it becomes a significant number.
Then the customer pays the OEM -- or a middleman -- for the PC, a PC which Microsoft itself admits is "slower-than-should-be" because of all the stuff loaded onto the system unnecessarily. Consumers are expected to take their new PC to a Microsoft Store -- though there are currently only 16 of them in the United States -- and pay Microsoft $99 to remove the crapware that the OEMs were paid to install.
It could only be worse if the OEMs wanted payment to remove crapware. Think that wouldn't happen? It's already been tried. Back in 2008, Sony announced plans to charge customers $50 for what it called "Fresh Start" systems that were free of crapware. The plans were dropped following a barrage of negative feedback.
The OEMs make money from installing crapware onto PCs, and now Microsoft is making money removing it. Makes you realize why more and more people are buying Apple hardware.
Most of you probably already know that you can remove a lot of the preinstalled crapware from PCs using PC Decrapifier. It won't give you the nice Signature edition desktop wallpaper, and won't install pretty much every piece of Windows Live software ever made onto your PC -- like Microsoft seems to do on Signature editions PCs -- but it will remove most of the crapware that you find on new PCs. And the best part is it won't cost you $99. In fact, it won't cost you anything, because it's free for personal use.