From a column today by Ed Bott:
“Sony is finally taking on its crapware problem. For the past two months, I’ve been using an astonishingly light and agile Sony VAIO notebook and loving every minute of it. The best part of all was that this machine was absolutely, completely, unequivocally crapware-free, which meant I was able to be productive within a few minutes of unboxing.
“That’s a huge switch for Sony, which has taken a beating as ‘the poster child for negative experiences‘ with new PCs running Windows Vista. And it was a happy surprise for me. When I wrote about my hands-on experiences with two older VAIO notebooks earlier this year, I called it a ‘truly miserable experience.’ It took a crapware-cleansing clean install to fix a 2007-vintage Sony notebook, and I spent hours replacing outdated drivers and removing unwanted software from a 2008 model (if you haven’t read that installment, see Fixing Windows Vista, one machine at a time).
“In a March interview, Sony Vice President Mike Abary assured me that Sony was ‘listening and taking action.’ The first phase, he said, was a new program called Fresh Start, in which Sony promised to remove all trialware and unnecessary software for customers who chose the Fresh Start option as part of a custom-configured VAIO. Sony announced initially that it would charge $49.99 for the privilege of ordering a crapware-free PC and then quickly reversed its decision.
“In early May, I ordered an ultraportable notebook from Sony’s website, configuring it to order and choosing the Fresh Start option (no extra charge).
“The notebook arrived a few days later, and I’ve been using it since then for a variety of real-world tasks. The bottom line? Sony’s Fresh Start delivers exactly what it promises: a crapware-free PC. It runs Windows Vista remarkably well, and the hardware has been a sheer delight to use.”
Details further on in the article about performance, battery life, drivers, and where to buy a Vaio with the Fresh Start option (online only – a Vaio purchased in a local store will come loaded with crap).