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Sony takes a few blows to the head over $49.99 "Fresh Start" option.

"Bloatware" is a term that is familiar to many new computer buyers. Most new computers come saddled with HDD and memory-robbing applications like trial versions of antivirus programs, various desktop search and chat applications, or perennial offenders like Adobe Acrobat.

Computer makers rely on these add-on programs to generate additional revenue in the age of decreasing computer prices -- bloatware can add as much as $60 in additional revenue for each computer sold.

Consumers, however, typically aren't amused by the overabundance of bloatware and typically 1) live with the bloatware if they are inept at removing the applications, 2) remove the applications one by one, or 3) perform a clean install of the operating system using an OEM CD/DVD and the product key on the bottom of the machine.

Neither option is an easy endeavor for computer buyers, so Sony wisely made the decision to offer customers the option of having bloatware removed from new VAIO computers before even leaving the factory. The option, called "Fresh Start", proclaimed that it would "free up valuable hard drive space" and "conserve memory and processing power".

Sony, however, made the unwise decision to charge customers a $49.99 fee for the bloatware removal. Whether the charge was intended to somewhat makeup for the estimated $60 windfall from the application publishers or just an effort to squeeze more money from its customers remains to be seen.

News of the $49.99 Fresh Start fee quickly spread around the Internet Saturday with sites taking Sony to task over the blunder. Sony quickly recoiled and removed the Fresh Start fee.

“We didn’t intend that to happen,” said Sony VAIO division Senior Vice President Mike Abary to ZDNET. “We’re removing the $49 charge."

Abary blamed the Fresh Start fee on a simple internal miscommunication within the company. He went on to confess all of Sony's sins with regards to bloatware on VAIO machines. “We heard the message loud and clear,” continued Abary. “VAIO is the poster child for negative experiences people had [with trialware]. We recognize that, and we acknowledge it. We’ve been really beat up by this issue. We’re listening and we’re taking action.”

The decision to offer Fresh Start was no doubt an excellent move on Sony's part, but the “internal miscommunication” left the company with egg on its face. Hopefully, other large computer makers will feel compelled to offer customers similar options – free of charge of course.





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