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Laptops

Laptop makers: we don't care about your software

Opening your brand new laptop should be a good experience. So why are vendors ruining it by stuffing it to the gills with poor software?

The virulence of crapware is astounding.

Taking your new laptop out of its box is a journey of discovery — and usually that discovery is that it's filled with a huge amount of substandard software or links from third-party vendors, many throwing up an incredibly vexatious pop-up vying for your attention, and begging you to register or enable the festering piece of excrement that most of them are. It not only ruins the out-of-box experience of the product, but it also slows it down and takes up disk space.

It's in stark contrast to the likes of OS X, Windows Phone and the iPhone, where tight control over the operating system makes them predictable, smooth and enjoyable experiences.

Much like how Hollywood abused the non-skippable copyright warnings on DVDs to occasionally force trailers down our throats, the flexibility and power of Windows is being abused to shovel crap into our laps.

Clearly, this third-party software provides kickbacks that help keep the cost of computers down — but quite frankly, I'd rather pay the difference to have a better experience. If it's not useful, like HP's bundling of full versions of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements on its premium laptops, leave it off.

But there's an even bigger issue than third-party apps: first-party apps.

Those applications provided by the laptop manufacturer that horrifically slow down the system and simply get in the way; docks, widgets, toolbars, online storage options, movie players, voluminous pointless utilities that simply replicate existing Windows functions. "Stage", "ClearFi" — no matter what the name is, it all makes the Windows experience worse in what seems to be a desperate bid to find a unique selling point.

Quite simply, get out of the way and let us use our PC.

It is with disappointment that I observe the same thing happening in the Android world, where phones can almost be rendered unusable by custom UIs or carrier-specific software that slows things to a crawl. At least on the Windows side, you can always uninstall the software — some of the more heinous players in the Android world prevent you from removing crapware unless you're willing to get serious with root tools or ADB.

I'd like to propose a guideline: if your software doesn't actively make the experience better and raise the quality perception of your laptop, resist putting it on your device. By giving the fastest, most streamlined experience, and not annoying your users, you're actually providing the point of difference that you're searching for.