Sony charges $50 to remove laptop bloatware

Sony is offering to remove some of the trial software it crams onto the hard disks of new laptops -- for a fee.

Buyers of the configure-to-order versions of its Vaio TZ2000 and Vaio TZ2500 laptops can opt to have Sony remove the some of its own applications, in addition to trial software and games.

The "Fresh Start" option, billed as a software optimization, costs US$49.99, and is only available to customers choosing to pay an additional $100 to upgrade the operating system to Windows Vista Business from the Windows Vista Home Premium edition offered as standard.

PC manufacturers are often paid by software publishers to include such trial versions on the computers they ship. Bloatware, as it is often called, poses problems for businesses because it reduces system performance and available hard disk space, makes it harder to maintain a consistent software image across PCs from different sources and may introduce additional security vulnerabilities or -- in the case of games -- unwanted distractions for workers.

Dell was one of the first PC manufacturers to offer to remove bloatware. Last July it introduced Vostro, a range of PCs for small businesses designed to be simpler to manage. Everex followed suit a week later, saying it would eliminate bloatware from a $300 desktop machine for consumers.

Customers opting for Sony's Fresh Start will miss out on software including Microsoft Works SE 9.0 bundled with a 60-day trial version of Microsoft Office, Sony's Vaio Creation Suite Photo Software bundled with a 30-day trial version of Corel Paint Shop Pro; the Click to Disc video editor; WinDVD, and a free edition of QuickBooks Simple Start that can only track 20 customers.

Sony justifies the $49.99 fee by saying it covers removal of the unwanted software before shipment -- although selecting the option appears to have no consequences on the estimated shipping date.

Although Sony has other laptops with configure-to-order options, including the FZ, SZ, AR and CR ranges, none of those are available with Fresh Start.

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