An Open Letter To Lenovo

In January of 2013 I bought one of your X1 Carbon ultrabooks. It’s a lovely machine. Splendid hardware design. You should be proud. I gather that others have come to share my opinion of your wares.

Lenovo X-1-Carbon

However, given your apparent aim at business class customers, at least with respect to the more costly models, I question your decision to litter up your products with bloatware.

I think that you might consider the example set by Google’s Nexus series of Android devices. The attraction of the Nexus series is the pure-Android experience, without any added bloatware.

Kit Kat (Android 4.4) on my Nexus 4 not too long after that release launched in September 2013. Nine months later there are still many mainstream devices that are waiting on Kit Kat!

In the earliest days of Android a case could be made for augmenting the core OS to provide a more refined user experience. From the Jelly Bean release (Android 4.1) onward that argument no longer holds water.

Software updates…that’s what bugs me about the stuff you loaded on my X1 Carbon. There are typically more updates to the manufacturer installed software than to the tools that I actually need. It’s infuriating when my flow, no…my personal productivity, is interrupted by a request to update an updater! That’s an Adobe-class irritant!

There X1 Carbon arrived running Windows 7 Pro, which is exactly what I needed at the time. There was this crazy “App Store” layered onto the system that was just completely worthless to me. Happily, when I eventually migrated the system to Windows 8.x that afterthought app store died in the process.

You have great hardware. Play to your strengths. Leverage the KISS principle. I’d suggest that your goal should be to minimize the amount of data that you load to the system. Given that SSDs are smaller than hard drives minimizing your use of storage just seems sensible.

Further, the less you add to the system the less likely anything is going to be an annoyance. You’re responsible for what’s there when the device arrives. I can’t rationally blame you for what’s not there. If I need some administrative tool, I’ll install it. OK?

I know that you need to be responsible about the execution of this strategy. I’m not suggesting that you ship systems without some kind of anti-virus trial. That would be irresponsible.

Perhaps you’ll lose a little revenue from partners seeking to peddle trials of their software. Don’t worry about that. Appreciative customers will help you make it up once it’s broadly known that you respect our time…now just cut out the crapware.

  • Karl Fife

    I agree with Michael.

    I think Microsoft is doing their brand a HUGE disservice (brand dilution) by allowing integrator to effectively break the user experience. Microsoft needs to take cue from Intel, a company with many “brand” programs that do nothing other than specify a set of desirable characteristics, or a level of performanc. This helps the end user to get good product or a good user experience. For example, the “Centrino” logo from years past, required the integrator to use an Intel low-power mobile processor, a specific Intel chipset and a specific Intel WiFi transceiver. ALL three worked together to create a low power system, enabling a long battery life. Today Intel has the “Ultrabook” brand. Similar in concept, it attempts to lower the hurdle for the end user to get a good product experience.

    Microsoft needs copy Intel, and create trademark that indicates the integrator has left the computer Crapware Free. Call it “Business Ready” or “Clean Windows” or something that conjures the idea of a no-nonsense installation.

    Integrators like Lenovo who engage in this bloatware stuffing are effectively ‘stealing’ from the Windows brand and stealing from the end user. The Windows user community may have developed the opinion that “Windows 8 is good”, yet the integrator leverages that brand equity, delivering a sub-optimal experience, favoring bloatware, confusion and inconvenience in service of incremental revenue. Microsoft is harmed when users walk away from the experience thinking “Windows sucks” or “Next time I’m buying a Mac”.

    End users are harmed when several hours of their lives are wasted paring away the cruft from their new machines. Often it’s worse. For example these days, nearly ALL windows systems ship with 3rd party antivirus suites. My real-world observation is countless examples of specific harm to end-users in which TCP/IP stacks are corrupted by these AV products, causing obscure performance problems ranging from arbitrary wait-states and intermittent connection issues, to specific breakage of applications and protocols like FTP and DNS. In my professional opinion, the only good reason for 3rd Party AV suites on Windows is to extract fees from end-users by leveraging the fear and uncertainty surrounding modern security threats.

    I like to think of Antivirus as the computer equivalent of brain surgery. If you or your loved one needed brain surgery, and had a choice between “the creator, master of time space and dimension” or some random third party, which would you choose? I thought so. The fee is fairly harmless, but harm to a system is not. Collectively I find it horrible, and I find it emblematic of a significant problem with the Windows brand. I think that a logo certifying the absence of crapware could go a long way to strengthening the Windows brand.

    • mjgraves

      Is it in bad form to agree with someone who is themselves agreeing with your earlier assertion? Oh, who cares!

      My neighbor suffered exactly the anti-virus issue you describe. He bought his two older sons some HP laptops that I recommended as Christmas gifts. Pretty stoked machines in fact. Windows 8 of course.

      Then in April he asked for my help because they were not working well online. The Norton Security suite trial had timed out, which itself was creating pop-up warnings. The network performance of the systems was hobbled by the trialware, which we ripped out and replaced.