Last week Lenovo acknowledged that it had been shipping consumer PCs with software called Superfish which the company now acknowledges added no value for users… and which it turns out also compromised the security of the computers which were running the software.

The company subsequently released tools to remove Superfish from all of its computers and worked with Microsoft and McAfee so that anti-malware software from those companies would automatically find and remove Superfish.

But the damage has already been done… and by damage, I don’t just mean the damage to users’ computers, but to Lenovo’s reputation.

Now Lenovo is trying to take steps to fix its image.

lenovo u330 touch

The company’s Chief Technology Officer Peter Hortensius released a statement this week outlining the steps Lenovo has already taken to deal with Superfish, but also highlighting some of the steps the company is considering for the future.

Lenovo isn’t ruling out shipping computers that come with third-party software pre-loaded, but the company is thinking about “creating a cleaner PC image,” which means that future Lenovo PCs may come with less bloatware.

Hortensius says Lenovo is also exploring the possibility of working more closely with users, privacy and security experts and others on a better strategy for pre-loaded software.

For years Windows PC makers have been shipping computers that come pre-loaded with apps ranging from Adobe Reader to that ubiquitous eMusic shortcut that was on nearly every laptop I saw for a few years.

Software makers pay computer makers to load their browser toolbars, shopping tools, anti-virus software, or other apps. This is both a source of revenue for PC makers, and theoretically a way for them to bring down the retail price of their computers by passing savings on to shoppers.

But many of these apps are completely unnecessary. Some can be resource hogs which can slow down your system unless they’re disabled or removed. Some take up valuable disk space. And as Superfish has shown, some can even pose security risks.

Third-party apps such as PC Decrapifier and Should I Remove It? are designed specifically to help you remove software that came with your computer. And Microsoft has recently begun selling “Signature Series” computers through the Microsoft Store, which are basically laptop, tablet, and desktop computers that ship without any bloatware. Because that’s a selling point these days.

It’d be great to see Lenovo or other PC makers adopt a bloatware-free policy moving forward. But if companies are going to pre-load software on computers, they should both make it easy to remove, and vet it to make sure it’s safe. It’s rather surprising that this wasn’t already happening, but I suppose it’s good to see that Lenovo (and presumably every other PC maker which has been keeping an eye on Lenovo’s situation) is treating the Superfish debacle as a wake-up call.

What do you think? What steps would Lenovo have to take before you would trust the company’s products again?

via Engadget

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18 replies on “Lenovo is rethinking bloatware in a post-Superfish world”

  1. What a great reason to buy a Mac or Chromebook instead of a Windows 8 Metro Tiles PC!

  2. And that is why I like to install FRESH OS ASAP, preferably Linux based.

  3. Still going to wait at least a couple of years before buying anything from Lenovo and that includes Motorola phones.

    1. Easy for you to say, James. I had to buy a new desk top to handle a new app that had brought my old machine to its knees. A top of the line Lenovo All-in-One was the most cost effective available but it is LOADED with bloatware. The thing that’s most irritating is that there is no description of what the bloatware is supposed to do for me.

  4. I think all bloatware should be “opt-in”. What’s so hard about that? Then the user can decide if they see any value in installing the free add-ons, feature by feature. Ideally this would all be cloud-based, so the user’s computer has no wasted disk space or potential vulnerability.

    1. You’re missing the point entirely. It’s not about offering users extra features. Manufacturers make money shipping bloatware on their computers. The only way opt-in would work is if they offered a discount for opting in.

      1. Why couldn’t they? It would basically be what Amazon is doing with the Kindle. You can buy a version with ads for less money than buying one without ads. It’s a viable model, albeit one that would probably need to play out a little differently.

        The OEM would just need to sell the computer at the higher price, then on initial boot up, offer the user the choice of opt-out or opt-in (single shipped image reduces management cost). If you opt-in, they give you credits or a rebate (in addition to the bloatware). If you opt-out, it uninstalls itself and you’ve paid what they would have made (and probably more) for the kickback anyway. I’d gladly toss’em a few extra bucks to get a clean computer from the factory and save myself the hassle of formatting it clean anyway.

        Most neophytes would opt-in, thus giving the OEM a double dip. Kickback from the software partners, and if they went with some credit incentive, the profit off of a secondary purchase to use those credits.

  5. Brad, when you and other tech writers get review units of new computers, do they come with all the same bundleware as the retail releases? Or do they ship out cleaner versions for review? I’m asking because I think reviewers could make a difference here. Press on the “bundleware level” more in reviews. Sites with 1 to 10 type review scoring should have a policy of automatically subtracting one or more points if there is bundleware.

    1. They typically have the same software as the consumer versions… and I typically uninstall McAfee before doing just about anything else.

      1. Hehe, yeah McAfee, give me a dollar for every time I’ve unchecked a “do you also want McAfee” type checkbox in installers. Anyway good at least that manufacturers are often honest enough to ship the products as is for review.

        1. just s they were so dumb and unthinking that they put Superfish on board they are also too dumb to realise that it isn’t a great idea to give reviewers units with crapware pre-installed

  6. This won’t stop me from buying Lenovo. A) They knew better than to put it on the business class products which tells me they knew it was problematic and that it would really hurt them with the corporate markets if they did it; I could care less if they fleece the sheep at Best Buy with the consumer lines. God made sheep for shearing. B) I never use the preload image.

    No, what is keeping me using this X200s instead of upgrading is the fact they stopped making Thinkpads at all and started making Mac clones. If I want a Mac I know where the Store is. Put the Thinkpad keyboard and a real dock back onto a model and see if I’m the only example of pent up demand for a real Thinkpad. Bet I’m not.

    1. Kinda douchy, man. Let us see how you react the day you or someone in your life get struck by ransomware or some other shit facilitated by botnets or otherwise compromised computers owned by all the “sheep” out there. Fact is malware and insecure bundleware tends to be bad for everyone, directly or indirectly.

  7. It’s like so much we put up with in the commodity computing environment. You’d think more OEMs would ship clean machines sans crapware as competitive advantage, but when they do they tend to charge an absurd premium far beyond the value of the crapware kickbacks they get. This tells me there are hidden motives and I wonder if organized crime isn’t involved somewhere making crapware bundling some form of “paying protection money to the racketeers.” Otherwise it makes no sense at all. Seems as if the DOJ should get involved.

    1. I buy business series machines… they last longer, have fewer issues. Same quality as Macs, but cheaper. Dell has been very good about keeping all crapware off their business series machines.

    2. If there’s an additional incentive to put spyware into a computer prior to shipping that’s in addition to what you can see on the market, chances are the DOJ or another three letter agency is already involved… in ensuring that your computer arrives at your home compromised to ready to be compromised in one way or another.

  8. I bought a Lenovo laptop for my girlfriend a couple of months ago and a couple of days ago manually removed the Superfish software and certificate. While I hate bloatware as much as anyone I understand why vendors add it. Profit margins on computers can be very small. Every bit of profit helps. Not checking to see what said software does to the systems your selling and then (initially) trying to pass it off as no big deal is not acceptable. While they may be doing the right thing now, it will be a long time before I trust Lenovo again.

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