More on Windows Vista and crapware

Earlier this week, I spoke with Michael Dell about the crapware installed on Dell's consumer PCs. Now, CBC is reporting comments from an anonymous Microsoft source expressing concern about what these "craplets" will mean for the launch of Windows Vista. Is there really anything to worry about?
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Yesterday I reported on my meeting with Michael Dell, where we spoke briefly about the hassles caused by crapware. Today, coincidentally, there's a story on CBC News, which goes over the same ground from a different point of view:

A senior Microsoft Corp. executive says the company is concerned that uncertified third-party software loaded onto new computers by manufacturers could hurt the launch of consumer versions of its Windows Vista operating system later this month.


The concern arises from third-party software that hardware makers commonly install on new computers in exchange for a fee, many of which have not been tested and certified by Microsoft to work with Vista, the executive said. They include things such as links to online services, and demo versions of programs.

"We call them craplets," the official said. The term is a contraction of the words "crap" and "applet." An applet is a small computer program or application.

The success of Microsoft's first major revision to its operating system in years could rest on whether or not the uncertified applets cause widespread malfunctions in consumer versions of Windows Vista that ship with new PCs starting Jan. 30.

Reporter Saleem Khan, whose by-line appears at the end of the story, has an interesting blog, but doesn't appear to have the sort of technical background that would give me confidence about the facts behind this story. And an additional red flag goes up when the Microsoft source is anonymous. With 70,000+ employees, it's easy enough to find someone who will speak about issues that are outside of his area of competence. For what it's worth, I've spoken with plenty of Microsoft developers, executives, and mid-level functionaries, on and off the record, and I haven't heard this fear from anyone.

Crapware is undoubtedly a nuisance, and the world would be a better place if software companies would pay customers instead of bribing PC makers to install trial versions of their programs. But the companies that ship these PCs have more to lose from support costs than Microsoft, and I'm certain that they won't deploy installations that are going to cost them support dollars. I predict that this will be a non-issue when PCs preloaded with Windows Vista begin shipping at the end of this month.

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