Dell has now taken the first step at removing some of the bloat from the computers they ship to consumers. Now when purchasing a computer you’ll have the option to opt-out of productivity software, ISP software, and photo/music management software. That’s good because many of those things are probably uninstalled by the users when they first get the computer.
—Dell & Google—
Unfortunately things like Google Desktop and antivirus applications are still not optional, unless you’re purchasing a computer from their XPS line in which case you can remove the antivirus offering. You could always decline the license agreement for the antivirus software when starting the Dell computer though, which would automatically uninstall it.
The Dell/Google URL Assistant has also been getting criticized lately for the way it handles mistyped URL’s. For example, if you type in digg.xom the URL Assistant will take you to a search results page that is mostly covered in sponsored links. Here was the response from the Dell blog regarding that:
The purpose of this utility is to handle a mis-typed URL by responding with a webpage of suggested links that contains both sponsored pages (paid placement) and typical search result links, versus returning an error page with no results or guidance. Some folks prefer the suggested information, some don’t.
There is also a new uninstaller for all of the software that you can’t opt-out of when ordering your PC. You could use just the standard Add/Remove Programs feature in Windows, but this is supposed to be "safer" because you’ll only be able to remove software that you don’t need on your computer for it to run properly.
—A lot of Work Left—
As much as I would like to sit here and applaud Dell for this business move, they still have a long ways to go. The fact that software is installed, which has not been chosen by the user, is not a good thing. It doesn’t help their out-of-box experience one bit especially since most people won’t know what any of the software does.
The right thing for them to do, in my opinion, is to include every single application with all computers that ship. Sounds crazy, right? Here’s the catch…none of it is actually installed. When the user starts the computer they choose which applications that they want to have installed, and the computer will go ahead and install the application for them.
They could even offer a one-click install option for the software so that users don’t get bothered with needing to click the "Next" button all of the time. They could then pick all of the programs they want to install from a list, and walk away while they are installed.
Heck, why not go one step further and create some sort of software repository online much like the Linux operating systems have. Then a user could pick from the non-commercial apps as well such as Firefox and OpenOffice.
The reason why this would probably never happen is that Dell gets monetary kickbacks for every computer that these programs are installed on. There would be no way for Dell to find out what programs users end up installing because of privacy concerns (people don’t like when their computers "phone home").
So the only real option they have is to let users pick the software they want before it leaves the factory, and the only way I can see that working out is to charge more money for those users who want a "clean" operating system. What do you think?