Everyone knows that crapware is just a fact of life in the PC world.
From my conversations with people, I’m not sure they understand why.
Basically, it has to do with profit margins in the world of PCs. Or, should I say, the lack of them. When competition became fierce in PC-land many years ago, the PC makers had to compensate for the fact that they were cutting their prices to the bone. So they started renting out their spare rooms to strangers, so to speak.
It was only about three years ago that I attended an advertising meeting with the chief marketer in Dell’s consumer division. He had crafted his plan to meet sales targets for the coming year.
(Note: in marketing meetings inside Apple, we absolutely never talked about meeting sales targets. We only talked about doing good ads. The operating theory was that if we did our job right, higher sales would be the result.)
At the proper point in the meeting, Mr. Marketer made mention of the crapware on Dell computers. And yes, he called it crapware. He pointed out that margins being what they were, crapware actually accounted for just about all the profit on each sale. He invited the agency to come up with new suggestions for companies who might want to join the club — and pay Dell for the right to clutter up their PCs just a little more.
Macs, of course, don’t have this problem. You might get a demo copy of iWork, but that’s about it. Two reasons for this: (A) Macs have a very high profit margin, and (B) Steve Jobs has taste. He was no more willing to bloat a Mac with crapware than he was to slap one of those perma-bonded Intel Inside stickers on his MacBook Air.
Macs have that higher profit margin because those who buy Macs place a value on what Apple brings to the party: design, simplicity and reliability. They’re willing to pay more to get more.
The end result: while Apple makes only 7% of the revenues in PCs, its products account for 35% of the entire industry’s operating profits. Seems to be pretty good incentive for Apple to continue working just the way it does. No crapware allowed.
Now that mobile devices are dominating technology, history is repeating itself.
Crapware wasn’t even a thought on the first smartphones. Now it’s becoming ubiquitous. Same reason as above: intense competition has carriers scrambling for profits. Apple continues not to scramble.
Interestingly, in this category, it’s not like Apple products cost so much more. Thanks to Tim Cook’s operating skills, it’s not easy for competitors to undercut the price of iPhones and iPads. So even at a similar price, Apple pulls in the lion’s share of this category’s profit as well — literally two thirds of the available profit, according to Asymco’s last report.
What’s a smartphone seller to do? Crapware to the rescue!
Mike Jennings reports his crapware findings for PC Pro. In a wide range of Android phones, he found a treasure trove of crapware installed by carriers: multiple app stores, security software, game demos, etc., etc. While you can remove this stuff from PCs with a little effort, not so with smartphones. Most of it is here to stay, installed in such a way that it can’t be removed by the user.
Of course, those who don’t care about such things will continue to point out the benefits of an “open” system. Those who do care about such things will go with the phone maker who also cares about such things — and help pump up their profits even more.