Monday, October 02, 2006

Bundling Blues

Why oh why do Dell insist in bundling trial software with their new PCs? The problem with this practice is that it can cause downright confusion for many inexperienced (and some experienced!) computer users when they begin their out-of-box-experience. The out-of-box-experience, or OOBE, is what manufacturers refer to the user's first moments with a new product after it is first turned on. This is meant to be a good experience for the user, where he/she feels in control and understands what is happening.

Unfortunately, bundled software can often throw a spanner in the works of the OOBE, particularly with a new Dell. On a recent set-up of a customer's PC we were confronted by trial versions of Dell Network Assistant, McAfee Security Centre, Norton Ghost, and Adobe Paint Shop and Photo Album. While Network Assistant may have some utility for managing a Network, when the screen pops up for the first time the average user is left scratching their head as to what this software does (after all, the customer didn't order it and therefore doesn't expect it to be on his/her new machine). And while Norton Ghost is a good disk imaging program in its own right, most customers have no inkling of what the program does when they encounter a splash screen inviting them to complete the install of it during their first 10 minutes using their new PC.

If Dell are going to continue bundling trial software with their PCs they should take the time to communicate this fact to their customers at time of purchase, explain to them what the bundled software does, how it might benefit them (if at all) and offer them the option of not having it bundled on their new PC if they so choose. Remember, this software is not bundled for the benefit of you, the customer, though Dell may represent it in that manner. No folks, the ugly truth of the matter is that software is bundled because of deals between companies like Norton and McAfee with Dell in order to make more money for all the parties involved - simple as that.

By the way, Dell are not the only offenders in this regard. Most PC manufacturers bundle trial software and in many cases that software has much less utility than that bundled by Dell.

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