Why PC Makers Deliver Misery

Why PC Makers Deliver Misery

Zdnet’s Ed Bott – a long time crapware watchdog – calls on PC makers to come clean about the profits they are making from preinstalled 3rd party software.

When your business model quite literally depends on how much misery you can convince your customers to endure, your industry has a problem.

I am, of course, speaking about the market for consumer PCs running Microsoft Windows. Buyers have an abundance of choices, across a broad range of form factors and price ranges. Unfortunately, many of those choices are mediocre, offering an initially unpleasant experience that rarely improves over time.

The worst offenders in this unhealthy ecosystem are PC makers, who struggle to squeeze out a profit in the cutthroat consumer space. The most popular way to lower the price tag that consumers see? Accept payments or commissions to preinstall third-party software on new PCs.

Ed Bott -Is it time to force PC makers to disclose how much they make from crapware?

So what’s the solution?

Well, if OEMs won’t tell humble reporters like me how much they’re being made to create miserable PC experiences, perhaps it’s time for regulatory agencies to get involved.

I’d love to see a label, prominently displayed on every new PC, that shows how much the PC maker collected in revenue for preinstallations, along with a full disclosure of how much it stands to collect in commissions for every trialware offer it promotes.

My educated guess is that the total amount that PC makers receive for every PC is a few dollars. A mere pittance, compared to the misery they make us endure when we buy one of these crapware-laden packages.

So why not ask the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and its European counterparts to force PC makers to ‘fess up and disclose every single penny, literally, that they received to pollute your PC? If the required disclosures included a list of 53 programs whose average utility is less than zero and for which the OEM collected a penny or so, would that perhaps be incentive for those OEMs to turn down some of those deals?

If you knew that Norton or McAfee were paying your PC maker $25 for shoving endless popups in your face to try to hard-sell you into buying an annual subscription, how would you feel? Would you perhaps pick the PC that had the shortest list of junk you needed to remove?

Lenovo won’t tell you how much they’re selling you out for. Other PC makers won’t either. Maybe it’s time to make those disclosures mandatory.
Ed Bott -Is it time to force PC makers to disclose how much they make from crapware?

Thomas Fox-Brewster of Forbes Digs Deeper | Lenovo’s Response & The Bigger Problem

As part of the PR push to placate angry customers and privacy activists, in a statement issued today Lenovo said the last week had reinforced “the principle that customer experience, security and privacy must be our top priorities”. “With this in mind, we will significantly reduce preloaded applications. Our goal is clear: to become the leader in providing cleaner, safer PCs.

“We are starting immediately, and by the time we launch our Windows 10 products, our standard image will only include the operating system and related software, software required to make hardware work well (for example, when we include unique hardware in our devices, like a 3D camera), security software and Lenovo applications.”

“This should eliminate what our industry calls ‘adware’ and ‘bloatware’.” Lenovo also promised be transparent about what software is preloaded onto its PCs to clearly explain what each application does.

Lenovo can’t eliminate the crapware problem on its own, however. It can’t even solve the problem for its own customers. That’s because the industry is a complex one, with myriad players along the advertising and download chain. It’s a market powered by some of the technology industry’s biggest businesses, where “reputable” companies like Oracle continue to push out ads for crapware via their installations for often-essential software like Java. This is done via companies like Perion and Sterkly, who promise to make companies’ software downloads even more profitable by chucking ads on them, regardless of whether users actually want them. And companies are making a mint out of these irksome practices.
Superfish: A History Of Malware Complaints And International Surveillance |Thomas Fox-Brewster

Put simply, there are hundreds of deals being made every week between unknown players, like Superfish, Perion and Sterkly, and industry giants like those named above that end in bloatware being thrust on people’s PCs. The software does nothing ostensibly useful for users and can put their privacy at risk.

Whilst anti-virus companies are increasingly blacklisting aggressive ads for bloatware and the secretive networks behind them, the scourge that is crapware won’t disappear until big industry companies follow Lenovo’s lead and kill crapware for good.
Superfish: A History Of Malware Complaints And International Surveillance |Thomas Fox-Brewster

Want to get monthly tips & tricks?

Subscribe to our newsletter to get cybersecurity tips & tricks and stay up to date with the constantly evolving world of cybersecurity.

Related Articles