Die, Shovelware, Die!

Hi, I'm Darren Gladstone. You might remember me from Casual Friday and my many laptop reviews. Now, in my copious free time--sleep is for the weak!--I'm also contributing to the Mobile Computing blog.

Occasionally, I'll tell you what cheeses me off about the state of mobility, and answer some of your questions in the process. And--fair warning--I may occasionally go off-script. So, let's start off with an easy target: shovelware that comes for "free" on your laptop.

The Not-So-Hidden Costs

It happens every time you buy a new computer: You yank it out of the box and it's littered with more badges and stickers than a NASCAR race car. You peel that gunk off while you wait through the initial system boot-up. Once Windows starts they're sitting there on your computer, staring at you. Shortcuts--trialware of stuff you won't ever use. Antivirus programs you don't want. And, yeah, somewhere in there you might find somewhat useful proprietary stuff (like, say, the Lenovo ThinkVantage Suite, or something as simple as a handy file sync manager I recently found on the Viliv S7). But nine times out of ten, you're looking at a 60-day trial of Windows Office 2007, a couple limited versions of other software, and some games. But how much of it do you actually want?

I posed the question at a vendor meeting recently: "Isn't there a better way to serve up that preinstalled software?"

The guy's answer: "It's a deal made through a sales department....and yeah, it can be annoying if they pick the wrong software. But our margins on these computers are razor-thin these days."

There's Gotta Be a Better Way

Oh, I get that: Computers don't grow on trees. But why does all this garbage have to be baked into every fresh hard drive? How about a small partition that houses all that gunk? The shortcuts taking up space on the desktop can link to setup files in that partition. When you restore your computer to its default state, you wouldn't have to go through a restore-uninstall process every single time! And if you don't want to use that "free" software, you can remove it easily and plop in your own.

Here's another wacky idea: How about they don't install anything extra on the computer save for proprietary goodies and just drop in shortcut links to company Web sites--or do what Google does with its Google Packs. How about putting together software bundles for specific users? Check out a story I wrote ages ago about my PC Mix Tape idea.

Another idea came out of Intel's Developer's Forum this past week: An Atom-centric App Store. This makes tons of sense. After all, someone using a netbook has very different needs from someone lugging around a desktop replacement. By spring 2010, we can expect three app stores coming from Acer, Asus, and Dell, each offering apps that you can get only through their stores. As that gets closer to fruition, I'm gonna take a closer look because, quite frankly, having three stores offering some of the same software could confuse netbook owners. Imagine trying to search through a couple different iPhone App stores for that one program. You see where I'm going with this?

What do you think? Are you mad as hell and not going to take it anymore? In the coming days and weeks ahead I want to hear what's eating at you. Give me the whole, unfiltered truth: I can take it. I'll try and give you some honest answers--or more random ramblings like this one. Either way, hit the comment box below or send e-mail to PC World with "ATTN: Laptops (I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore.)" in the subject line.

Need even more nerdity? Follow PC World Senior Writer Darren Gladstone on Twitter (gizmogladstone) for more ramblings on all things tech (and games) .

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