posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th Oct 2009 17:51 UTC
IconWe all know that Microsoft doesn't actually make computers. It makes the software, and then lets an almost infinite amount of manufacturers build computers that can run its software. These manufacturers often make a mess of things, delivering computers filled to the brim with crapware. What would happen if Microsoft made computers? Well, for one, they would be void of crapware. Two, they would help users install the software they want before leaving the store - including software from competitors.

Recently, Microsoft has become a computer retailer with the opening of the first Microsoft store. Apart from selling its own products, like the Zune, XBox 360, Windows, and so forth, the company also sells computers from HP, Acer, and lots of other computer makers. However, there are distinct differences between machines sold in the Microsoft Store, and those bought directly from OEMs.

First and foremost, they are crapware-free. There's no trial software, no silly games, no crappy launchers, and no boatloads of crap tucked away in the system tray. However, it does come pre-installed with a number of Microsoft applications - Windows Live Essentials (Mail, Writer, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, and Messenger), Zune 4.0, Flash and Silverlight plugins, and Security Essentials. In addition, Internet Explorer 8 has Bing Search as its default search engine.

While you may classify these as crapware too, the fact of the matter is that many of them are unobtrusive, useful applications. Windows 7 ships without a mail client for instance, so Live Mail is a must for many users. While we geeks and nerds may dislike Flash and Silverlight, average users can't live without them. Security Essentials is a very light and well-made antivirus/malware program - the first of its kind to ever find a way to my computer.

All this is part of Microsoft's Signature PCs initiative. It is no secret that Microsoft is unhappy with the way OEMs ship their products, and through this initiative, the company is showing OEMs how it believes computers should be shipped. Signature PCs can be bought through the two Microsoft Stores, or online. The online store looks nice - I'd love to have that in The Netherlands. Whoopsie, it actually exists - just no computers yet.

On top of the signature initiative, Microsoft also helps customers installing the software they need - or removing what they don't need - before they leave the store. This includes installing iTunes, or setting up a different browser and/or search provider. "We want to give customers what they are asking for, so they leave store 100 percent satisfied," Microsoft retail unit chief technology strategist Kevin Eagan said.

A very welcome move by Microsoft, because I personally believe a lot of the headaches with Windows are, in fact, not caused by Windows itself, but more by OEMs preloading their machines with massive amounts of crap. I hope OEMs take the hint Microsoft is sending out here.

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