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3/21/2008
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Sony To Offer Notebook Computers Without 'Crapware'

Sony says it will drop the $50 fee it planned to charge customers for removing the trial software and games the company pre-installed in notebooks.

When you buy a new computer, it often comes loaded with applications, games, and applets that try to convince you to buy other programs and services. These pieces of software, which can slow the performance of a new machine, are often described as "bloatware" or "crapware."

Computer makers often are paid to include such programs on their machines. Sony, however, came up with a clever idea: Launch a program called "Fresh Start" and convince customers to pay $50 to get a computer without the unwanted and unnecessary software.

Sony reversed course on Friday, shortly after it launched the program, and said it would drop the $50 fee it charged customers for removing the trial software and games the company pre-installed in notebooks.

The consumer electronics company, which launched the paid option on Friday, responded to a query from InformationWeek and said that it would offer the service for free within 24 hours.

"Starting tomorrow [Saturday], Sony will offer Fresh Start free of charge," the company said in an e-mailed statement. "We want Vaio users to have the best experience possible with our PCs, and we believe Fresh Start will help ensure that happens right out of the box."

Sony launched the fee-based option on two Sony notebooks, the Vaio VGN-TZ2500 and VGN-TZ2000. The computers have starting prices of $3,050 and $1,900, respectively.

A Sony spokesman said at the time that the company had planned to roll out the option to the rest of its consumer notebooks throughout the rest of the year.

On its online store, Sony calls Fresh Start a "system optimization service" that removes software that could slow down a new Vaio notebook. "Fresh Start safely scrubs your PC to free up valuable hard drive space and conserve memory and processing power while maximizing overall system performance right from the start."

Some reviewers complain that Sony is worse than other companies in pre-loading unwanted software. Consumer technology review and news site Engadget, a part of the Weblogs Inc. network, said Sony has "quite the history of crippling excellent, beautiful hardware with horrible, useless software."

Engadget reported that Sony's recently released UX ultra-mobile PC "blue-screened" the first time the site's reviewer turned it on and crashed the first time it was shut down because of all the bloatware. Laptop Magazine reported that Sony's Vaio VGN-TZ150N "behaved as if it were broken," before the unwanted software was removed.

Other tech experts have said that bloatware common among all computer makers also poses a security risk, because vendors may not distribute patches for the trial software.

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