Q: I recently bought a new laptop from (a name brand company) and when I received it, I was shocked to see how many trial software programs were installed on it. Why are they doing this?
A: The constant price war on computers continues to force manufacturers to find new ways to lower prices in order to keep up with the competition. The majority of buyers aren’t really sure how to tell the difference between all the various technical features of the computers they are considering, so the price usually becomes one of the biggest drivers.
The PC manufacturers understand that most buyers are not that sophisticated, so they prey on that lack of sophistication by making deals with software manufacturers to subsidize the cost of the computer.
For instance, if you buy a PC with a full licensed copy of Microsoft Office installed, it can increase the overall price of the computer by several hundred dollars making that computer seem overpriced.
If the PC manufacturer makes a deal with Microsoft to put a “trial” version of Office on the computer, it does not have to increase the price, but can say that the system comes with Microsoft Office installed. After 60 days, if you want to keep using the program, you will have to pay Microsoft directly.
Your new computer’s desktop is considered cyber-real estate and PC manufacturers are selling off chunks of your screen to the highest bidder. This allows them to squeeze more profits out of each sale while keeping the initial price to the consumer at a lower price.
When they started out with this sneaky way of doing business, they typically installed optional programs that were not essential to the operation of your computer, but today it is a much different story.
In my opinion, this approach borders on fraud because it takes advantage of consumers that are naïve. When a computer comes with an anti-virus program that expires in 30 days or an office suite that expires in 60 days, it is clearly not in the best interest of the consumer. Most are hoping you are not paying attention so you get hit with the surprise far after the initial purchase.
The other impact that all of this pre-loaded trial software has on a new computer is that it slows it down. Everything that gets pre-installed has to be processed when you turn your computer on, so start-up times on new computers these days is atrocious.
And to make things worse, many retailers are charging folks to clean off the factory installed software on the computer that the retailer sold them in the first place. The bottom line for anyone buying a new computer is to be very careful when you make your decisions on what to buy and who to buy it from.
Look for companies that offer computers without trial-ware and don’t charge you to remove what should not have been on the computer in the first place. If you are going to buy a low-price computer, be sure to factor in the true cost of the computer by adding in the cost of getting fully functional security (anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, etc.) and productivity software (Word, Excel, etc.) as well as any expense in getting the system cleaned up so it can actually be useful.
While you’re at it, be sure to ask what options you have for getting your new computer to work like your old computer. A new computer that does not have your data, address book, favorites, e-mail accounts, printer drivers and network settings is a pretty useless appliance, but very few buyers think about that part of the equation when they make their purchase.