Is bloatware on the way out for PC makers?

Pre-built PCs loaded with software trials, promotional software, and browser toolbars may soon be a thing of the past. The New York Times reports that Best Buy's Geek Squad bloatware removal service is putting pressure on PC vendors to change their software bundling practices.

Best Buy has been offering the $30 removal service since 2006, but the Times says analysts and industry executive find the policy's toll "has heightened considerably" as of late. Geek Squad head Robert Stephens himself admits, "You’d be surprised how often consumers tell us to get rid of [the software]." Best Buy allegedly promotes the service at stores in Northern California by displaying HP desktops cluttered with icons.

Despite those somewhat aggressive practices, HP's PC business chief Stephen DeWitt claims he sees "no tension" coming from Best Buy. However, he told the Times that HP desktops will come with less pre-loaded software starting next year, as HP will instead point users to a website where they can download and buy "games, productivity software and other programs." HP will share revenue from the site between itself, software makers... and retailers like Best Buy.

Other PC makers may have a harder time weaning themselves off promotional software. Margins are so small that, in certain cases, "the computers are profitable only because their makers earn $30 or more for each computer for preinstalling the software," according to American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. Another analyst, this time for Forrester Research, adds that removing pre-loaded software "could put [PC makers] in the red." (Thanks to TR reader Eric for sending this in.)

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