Lenovo, the world’s largest Windows PC maker, isn’t just apologizing for selling millions of PCs made vulnerable by a software package it installed at its factories. It’s also pledging to put an end to the amount of software add-ons it forces on users when they buy a PC.
The promise came at the end of last week in a press release, days after security researchers noted that Superfish, an app Lenovo installed on PCs at its factories, left vulnerable to hackers, who could potentially see everything some users were doing, according to the New York Times . In the release on its website Lenovo notes that it’s already created software to remove Superfish from many user’s computers.
For notebooks that have already left its warehouses with Superfish installed, there’s not much to do except for remove the software and run frequent checks to make sure there aren’t any issues. To that end, Lenovo is extending McAfee LiveSafe subscriptions for users by six months and giving out new free six months subscriptions to users through its website. It hopes to share how users can get the free subscriptions over the next week.
What’s attracting the most attention is the company’s decision to cut down on installed software in a big way. Lenovo is promising users it’s Windows 10 PCs will be “better, safer and more secure,” by not having so much third-party software on installed. When Windows 10 arrives Lenovo says the PCs it sells “will only include the operating system and related software.” Lenovo will still add-in software to power some hardware extras, but won’t make it a habit of installing stuff that users don’t need to make their Windows PC run. It also plans to keep installing its own apps.
Even with the caveats, this is a big step for anyone hardware maker in the Windows space, much less the world’s biggest PC maker. In eliminating extras Lenovo buyers can expect PCs that are safer and run better, by most accounts. If this catches on as a selling point, we could see other PC makers like HP follow Lenovo’s lead. That’s important because as Windows itself has gotten better, software add-ons have continued to wreck the out-of-box experience for many users.
Some tools and utilities that come installed on PCs are useful. Others, like games with free trials and utilities from third-party companies that need to be paid for after their free trial ends aren’t. Typically, Windows PC makers stuff these kind of thing into their devices to make more money on low-cost devices. As Lenovo notes, Superfish only came installed on notebooks that weren’t in its premium ThinkPad series.
To be clear, another problem with Superfish was that it was essentially adware, a program that followed users around the internet to serve them more relevant ads.
PCs coming with unnecessary software has been a problem plaguing Windows for years, but in the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 era things got a little better. Microsoft added places in the Windows Store for PC makers to showcase apps from their partners. Additionally, the company made it easier to manage and uninstall such apps. Windows 8.1 lets users uninstall modern apps in bulk to save time. It also limits apps to what the permissions they are given, something the Desktop and its programs doesn’t do it. In the end, PC makers kept uninstalling the unnecessary software on their machines to make money.
Microsoft isn’t expected to deliver Windows 10 until sometime in late 2015.
Microsoft, fed up with extras ruining the Windows experience began the Signature Edition program at its stores. No PC purchased from the Microsoft Store comes with unsightly software extras.