Our family room PC died this morning. Needed a new one in a hurry — this is a mission critical PC at home. I usually build my own or order from a boutique oem but no time, so out to the closest stores — compusa, office depot, best buy, finally fry’s. The first 3 didn’t have any small form factor quiet PCs. Fry’s had an HP 7410 — small form factor, quiet, $529, Windows XP MCE. Seemed like a fine deal.
The ensuing 4 hours getting it running were painful. And it all comes down to the economics of the business that Microsoft has created and that the big PC OEMs promulgate. At these price points, the OEMs aren’t making enough money to make it worth their while, so they spend an extraordinary amount of effort trying to get you to part with more money post-purchase, and they work hard to collect bounties from various service and software providers.
As a result, you have to wade thru literally hours of crap to get the pc in a reasonable state. Of course there is all the normal Microsoft registration and activation upfront. Then you have to wade thru the HP screens pitching you on an extended warranty offer. Then you have to wade thru HP screens pitching you on internet access offers even though you are already on the internet, dammit. Then you have to register with HP and give them permission to update your computer and spam you with various alerts and notifications (which are probably designed to extract more money from you).
Then you get to activate the Symantec suite that is on the box, which expires in 60 days. I’ll get another chance to give HP and Symantec money in 2 months.
Once you are thru all this chattering you get to your Windows desktop finally. Where you find a trial version of Microsoft Money. Of Quicken. Of Microsoft Office. Of Rhapsody and all its attendant software. AOL. AOL Music. AOL Latino. Ebay (is this software or just a link to ebay? I’m not clicking). MSN. MSN Encarta. Easy Internet Signup (didn’t I already deal with this?). HP Extended Service Plans (Ditto). HP Photosmart. Netscape. Snapfish. A jillion trial games, powered by Wildtangent — I imagine you have to pay to get full versions, but again I’m not clicking.
This is all splattered all over the desktop, the quickstart bar, and some of it on the icon bar — why does symantec need two notification icons? Oh and the java runtime is installed and immediately updates itself, and offers to install the google desktop and toolbar for you.
Of course your home page for IE is set to Netscape, oh joy.
You have to wade thru and delete most of this crap, and of course there is nothing preinstalled that I really need — like the huge set of Windows Updates I have to immediately download — 32 of them. Or the drivers for my existing mouse and keyboard — microsoft brand. Another half hour or more of futzing around to get all this right.
Basically the pc business model as promulgated by ms and big name oems is corrupt. To make ends meet, the oems resort to all this crap that is the moral equivalent of spam — I didn’t ask for it, it isn’t explained at purchase time, I never gave anyone permission to slam it all over my system.
I’d rather pay a honest price up front for a system that respects me and is truly personal. No wonder apple is resurgent.