Sony realizes $50 crapware removal fee is, well, total crap
By Ken Fisher Published: March 21, 2008
Late last night word started circulating that Sony's suits decided that delivering crapware-free PCs was a great idea, particularly if they could get consumers to pay $50 for a PC free of the bloat.
For the uninitiated, "crapware" is the loving term we give to all the useless and often quite irritating software that comes pre-installed on a new PC. ISPs software, anti-virus software that won't work in 60 days, pointless "media players" and "managers" are just some of the examples of software that are routinely uninstalled on new PCs we receive in the lab. It's a real pain, and sometimes these crappy programs cause you problems.
We learned at 2007's International CES, straight from Michael Dell himself, that "crapware" generates significant revenue for the PC industry, accounting for some $60 of revenue per machine at Dell. In an industry with razor-thin margins, it's not hard to see why crapware is popular with OEMs like Dell and Sony. Not everyone can rake in Apple-like margins on computer hardware (of course, Apple is better on crapware than most, too).
Engadget last night reported that Sony was going to allow consumers a "Fresh Start" for $50, an option to pay Sony for the pleasure of not having a lot of useless junk installed on your PC. Readers across the Internet were incensed to see Sony try and monetize this, although a lesser contingent were open to the possibility.
We reached out to Sony, and the grinding gears eventually spit out an oracular response: they've already killed the charges for "Fresh Start." A spokesperson said that "Fresh Start" will be a "no charge" option for some laptops. "Fresh Start" will not be available on all computers ordered from Sony, however. We can only guess that the company still relies on the profits from crapware across some of its desktop and laptops lines, and therefore will only be offering "Fresh Start" on select, higher-end systems like those running Windows Vista Business Edition.
Ed Bott, also covering the story, had a chance to talk Sony's Mike Abary, senior VP of the VAIO division. According to Abary, the whole thing was the result of an internal miscommunication and should have never happened in the first place.
I find that explanation difficult to believe. Sony is a giant company, so anything is possible, but the checks and balances that should be in place ought to prevent a $50 price tag being accidentally applied to something that's supposed to be free.
In either case, the reaction online appears to have only encouraged Sony to move quickly and kill the program's fees. One wonders if it will also kill the spread of the program to other PCs and notebooks in the future. We're guessing the answer is "yes."