End to end problems

I know it's a cliché for mac users to bitch about Windows, but I'm giving an old PC of mine to a friend and after wiping it clean and setting everything up, I can't believe how hostile the process is to the user. Every aspect of it is tainted, because someone, somewhere can make a buck at each stage of the process. There's Microsoft, nagging you for updates and virus protection and 30-day demos. There are applications themselves trying to install toolbars and upsell you to the paid pro version. There are download websites trying to trick you into also installing a "registry cleaner" as if you'd need one. Then there are all the pre-installed apps on the HP box, where half of the Start menu items seem to be "special offers" for online services, games, and software suites. I feel like I've run through an obstacle course for the past three hours trying to avoid every trap door that surrounded me.

There's something to be said about Apple's end-to-end control from the smallest bits of hardware all the way to the operating system, including installed applications and out-of-box experience. At least they know new customers aren't going to be harrassed for hours after spending hundreds-to-thousands on a computer.

I'm trying to imagine if I just came home from Best Buy with this HP computer, how insulted I'd feel by the process and how I'd think I just wasted my time and money.

10 Comments

  • Yeah, that shovelware garbage is a terrible part of the Windows experience. The problem is HP or Best Buy is making $5 or so for every toolbar, trial, etc they put on the desktop.
    PC manufacturers have learned their users hate this process; Dell for example. Personally I’ve always avoided it by buying PCs from online stores that are too small to negotiate shovelware contracts.

  • Let’s not forget that OS X comes with a trial version of MS Office installed. Apple doesn’t get a free pass here either.

  • @Peter: Sure, Apple installs some trial software too but I feel like it was much more than a money-making decision. With it pre-installed, a user can start reading docs and powerpoints from Day One and purchase the trial if they think it’s necessary. It’s as useful as having a PDF viewer and decompression tool built into the OS.

  • paul in kirkland

    I can so relate to this. I spend days setting up computrers for friends and family that are supposedly “set up” when they bring them home. It’s ridiculous. I actually bring my parent’s PC to my house before they even use it, and spend 3 or so evenings cleaning it off.
    The best/worst one happened about a month ago. My friend bought a new PC and I spent the weekend cleaning it off. On boot an NVIDIA app launches that tells you you should set up your hdd using RAID.
    Two things.
    First, the average person has no idea what RAID is or why it’s useful.
    Second, as part of setting up the RAID partition the HDD gets reformatted. There was only one drive! So if they would’ve said “Yes”, the hdd would’ve been reformatted and they would’ve lost everything they just bought.
    It’s just a joke. It’s not really Microsoft’s fault though as much as it’s an issue with non-Apple PCs in general. As you said, everyone’s trying to get a piece, so the end result is a terrible UX out of the box.

  • Matt,
    First of all, the comment box is wonky (VERY wide) on Safari on a 24″ iMac.
    Second, I sympathize. I recently bought an Aspire One netbook for a single task that I need to perform under Windows. I now use it as my “TV watching machine”. The thing is driving me fucking insane.
    First of all, there are the incessant pop-up reminders and warnings. Second, McAfee seems to control the system. It’s as if it’s McAfee Windows, not Microsoft Windows. I keep trying to remove the McAfree toolbar from Internet Explorer (why do I need it?) and it keeps re-installing itself. SO FUCKING STUPID. When McAfee asks if I want to update it, there’s no way to say “no, and don’t ever ask again”.
    But it’s not just McAfee. It’s the entire system. It’s as if it’s intentionally user-hostile.
    I used to consider myself platform agnostic. I would use Mac, Windows, or Linux without complain. Not anymore. After several years spending most of my time in OS X, I can’t imagine going back to Windows. On the Mac, I can just do stuff. I never worry about the operating system getting in my way. Things just work.
    I know I sound like some sort of lame Mac evangelist, and that’s not really true. Macs have their problems, too. But man, working with Windows recently has been like pulling teeth.

  • You’re right, but Apple software on Windows is among the worst offenders. Update Itunes, get a drive-by Safari install for free. They must have hired someone who used to work at Real Networks (RN itself is behaving way less egregiously than during their peak a few years ago).

  • That’s true and unfortunate. I guess it’s in Apple’s best interest not to make their apps nice and tolerable on the PC to get more users to jump ship?
    I do find their decisions odd with iTunes installs, though I did live with fucking Quicktime on windows for about a decade before I moved to macs, and it was famous for taking over your entire system and remapping itself as your default player if you so much as sneezed.

  • True, there is that demo software, but the desktop isn’t riddled with shortcuts and mentions of it. Typically I forgot those apps are even there until three months after I buy a mac and someone sends me a doc file I accidentally double-click and the demo version of Office launches.
    So it’s there, but nothing like the demo shovelware on a PC.

  • I run Windows and Ubuntu in a dual-boot so it’s always interesting to compare and contrast the two operating systems. My small, sleek Sony Vaio laptop is a great machine. It’s unfortunate that it came loaded with TONS of crapware. I thought Dell was bad, but they don’t hold a candle to Sony. Sony was even kind enough to put five complete movies on the laptop’s hard drive that I could unlock for a special low (additional) price.
    The kicker for me was it didn’t come with a standard Windows installer disc. The Sony came with a customized installer that installed all the crapware back on if you tried to reinstall Windows. There was no way to avoid it without buying a clean, retail copy of Windows. Nice.
    In my experience, that extra gunk makes the system unstable as well. Not only is it clutter, but it causes actual problems with the machine.
    There ARE ways to run cleanly, securely with Windows, but they definitely don’t make it easy for the end-user. The default Windows experience is not the desirable one.

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