If Consumers Will Pay $50 To Remove It, What's It Doing There In The First Place?
from the penny-wise-pound-foolish dept
That didn't take long. On Friday morning, PC World reported that that it would offer a "Fresh Start" option on certain of its laptops: for an extra $50, Sony would remove all the annoying "trial software" that apparently infests a lot of PC laptops these days (as a smug Mac user, I can't say I've experienced this firsthand). Not surprisingly, the announcement generated a firestorm of controversy, and within hours, Sony's PR reps rushed out to reassure people that it was all a big misunderstanding. Sony won't charge for "Fresh Start" after all, and will instead offer it as a free option. But only on certain laptops and only for customers who upgrade to the business version of Vista.
The fact that it thought of offering such a service at all -- for a fee or otherwise -- suggests that Sony has a rather short-sighted attitude toward its business. PC manufacturers reportedly get as much as $60 per PC in kickbacks from software vendors to put trial software on their customers' computers. Apparently, in the low-margin PC business, that's too much cash to pass up. But putting bloatware on PCs is a bad strategy for precisely the same reason that filling your website with intrusive ads is a bad strategy. It might make more money in the short run, but it ruins your brand and reduces the chances you'll get repeat customers. The reason that customers choose a name-brand PC over a dirt-cheap white-label one is that they want to minimize hassles. A good name-brand manufacturer carefully chooses components that will ensure a hassle-free experience. It would be stupid to pick a flaky graphics card because it's five bucks cheaper: the angry customers would cost a lot more than five bucks in the long run. By the same token, forcing customers to take software they don't want is going to cost a lot more in customer satisfaction than it's going to gain in revenue. Manufacturers should only bundle third-party software that enhances (or at least doesn't diminish) the value of the product to the end user. (Dell's contract with Google is a good example of how to do this right.) In the long run, firms that zealously protect the quality of their user experience will do better than those that allow the customer experience to be undermined in order to make a quick buck.