Lenovo vows to stop shipping PCs with third-party bloatware after Superfish fiasco

It only took an embarrassing adware scandal that put millions of PCs at risk, but Lenovo had a revelation: People just want clean Windows.

It only took an embarrassing adware scandal that put millions of PCs at risk, but Lenovo has had a revelation: People just want clean Windows.

As such, Lenovo will significantly reduce the amount of pre-loaded software on its PCs. The cutbacks on bloatware will begin immediately, and by the time Windows 10 arrives this fall, new PCs will only include the operating system, security tools, Lenovo's own apps, and any software necessary to make the hardware run properly. (An exception will be made in countries where certain applications are "customarily expected by users.")

"This should eliminate what our industry calls 'adware' and 'bloatware,'" Lenovo said in a statement.

The promise to go bloatware-free is just the latest in a series of mea culpas from Lenovo, after security experts discovered a serious vulnerability in pre-loaded software called Superfish. Not only did the software display unwanted ads on users' PCs, it also allowed hackers to hijack data from secure HTTPS connections. In theory, these man-in-the-middle attacks could be used to steal banking information or sensitive emails. (Lenovo and Microsoft have since published automatic removal tools, and Lenovo now says it will offer six months of McAfee LiveSafe service to affected users.)

At first, Lenovo was reluctant to admit any wrongdoing, but the company eventually said that "we messed up." Still, the company continued to insist that bloatware was great for users if done properly. "I think you do this thing right, people like information and awareness," Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius told PCWorld last week.

It seems that the company has finally seen the light.

The story behind the story: While PC makers try to put a positive spin on bloatware, it's no secret that pre-loaded applications are largely a way to pad out thin hardware profit margins. The unspoken truth for Lenovo is that its prices will have to go up, or it'll have to eat some of the cost of going bloatware-free.

Still, the PC industry is woefully short on bloatware-free options--you basically have to shop at the Microsoft Store or go with a boutique PC builder to ensure a clean Windows build--and Lenovo could potentially establish itself as a leader in this area. Here's to the company making some lemonade of its profound screw-up.

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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