The advantages of buying PCs without bloatware

Thorsten Stremlau

Sunday 6 November 2016

Thorsten Stremlau, Lenovo’s WW Principal IT Architect, on why you should buy a PC with an enterprise-ready preload.

Lenovo’s PCs now come without any third-party apps installed. This makes for a much more streamlined user experience, as well as saving our customers valuable time and money. But trust me – we learnt the hard way.

A couple of years ago, our consumer notebooks shipped with a piece of software that contained a security vulnerability. We vowed we would never make such a mistake again. Now we’ve cleaned up our standard preloads, so when you buy a PC from us, it only has the software required in order for the PC to function – nothing else. This is called the Signature Preload.

Ready to provision

When a corporation buys a PC, it usually has to wipe whatever is on there in order to install its customised operating system. That’s because the OS typically has elements preinstalled by Microsoft aimed at end users or consumers, such as Get Office (a link that lets you subscribe to an Office 365 package), or Get Skype (a similar proposition for the Skype VoIP). There are also travel apps and news apps – things that don’t have a lot of value in the enterprise environment. In fact, they can be distracting for workers, and no company wants their employees sidetracked.

We’ve saved companies the hassle by creating an even cleaner version of the Signature Preload. This is called the Ready to Provision package. It’s an absolutely clean OS. All it has is the cleanest drivers preinstalled on it, and two Lenovo applications: Lenovo Companion and Lenovo Settings, both of which are required to properly configure the hardware. Everything else – including around 20 Microsoft apps – is removed. So it’s a completely clean sheet with no bloatware, and no consumer-oriented apps.

But the really neat thing is that it lets you change the nature of the OS itself. With older versions of Windows, if you wanted to change from Windows 7 Pro to Windows 7 Enterprise, you had to reinstall the entire operating system, which meant erasing everything on the system and reimaging it. That in itself is time-consuming, but when you factor in all the security checks, it can easily take a month or two before your PC is up and running.

Provisioning changes all that. Microsoft introduced this in Windows 10, and it lets us alter the skew of the OS in a way that’s much quicker and easier, without the need to reimage it. So if you buy a PC running Windows 10 Pro but decide to switch it to Windows 10 Enterprise, we can change it just by sending a very small package onto the machine. The new version of the OS will work as new, be tested and verified by Lenovo, and be free of any bloatware.

It all happens in a few minutes with a download of just a few megabytes, compared to gigabytes before. Plus there’s no need to take the machine to a dedicated facility and unpack it.

Complete control

This also gives companies unparalleled control over their machines. That same provisioning package can be used to configure the machine to your enterprise needs, so your security policies, background images and so on can be tailored to the specific enterprise environment.

We’ve taken this a step further. A customer can actually send the provisioning package to a PC within one of our manufacturing facilities, meaning they can configure the machine to their exact specifications in terms of their security policies and domain join before it even leaves the factory. Then it will arrive at the employee’s desk completely configured to the enterprise without needing any additional intervention. That saves between $75 (€67) and $180 (€161) per machine, plus the additional costs of unpacking, unboxing, reimaging and sending it out to the end user.

Our Ready to Provision package even gives the company control over utilities. We ship the machine with the operating system ready, so the PC works. But we don’t install the drivers that install utilities like Bluetooth or the LTE card in the 3G modem. We leave it up to the company to decide whether they want to activate these features or not, and if so, how they configure them. It’s a hitherto unseen level of control.

I like to think of it as a ‘shake-and-bake’ package. We offer a complete cake, but it’s up to the customer to add the milk and water, and bake it to their exact requirements. It gives them the confidence that there is nothing in the preload that will compromise security or affect compatibility in any way.

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