The Problem with the Software Industry

A few weeks ago I wrote about the problem with the computer repair industry. This week I will be talking about the problem with the software industry with a focus on Norton and Vista.

I’ll start this article by talking about the infamous Symantec Norton Internet Security. Most technicians frown upon it because its slow and unstable (and misses many threats, but that’s another topic). Some of us even joke that the best piece of software that Symantec ever made was the Norton Removal Tool.

Did you know that Norton Internet Security was once a good antivirus? I even had it myself. There was once a point in time when it was fast and stable and was the internet protection package to have.

So what happened to it? Well, that can be answered with another question. How do you keep on selling the perfect product? How do you get the person who brought Norton Internet Security last year to want to buy the same thing again this year? With new features of course.

Norton Internet Security was originally a standalone virus scanner/firewall where it would run a system scan every so often and stop strange internet traffic. Then they added an email scanner to scan emails going in both directions. Later, they added antipspyware features. They continued adding many other features each year such as wireless security, instant messenger protection, identity theft/scam protection, rootkit detection and more. This kept on happening until we have the bloated, slow and unstable monstrosity that we have today.

Does this sound like any other recent software?
Windows Vista has suffered the same fate. Microsoft has added more features into Vista (but surprisingly, not that many more useful features) at the cost of performance. I believe that it was Windows XP that was at that magic point where its a nice balance of performance verses features. Chances are the next version of Windows wont be much better, people wont upgrade unless they see a good reason to do so. Microsoft will use extra features as the sales point of the new operating system again and will probably just be another Vista.

This happens across the board with just about all software. Even software that doesn’t really need to upgrade such as Adobe Acrobat Reader (I just want to read PDF’s dammit!) became bloated. As of the time of writing this article, Adobe Acrobat Reader is a 22.4mb download whereas its freeware equivalent Foxit Reader is only 1.6mb. If FoxIt reader can read PDF’s with only 1.6mb, why cant Adobe?

Id say this is partially why the open source community is picking up speed, people are just sick of the bloated commercial applications and replace them with streamlined open source versions.

Wikipedia describes software bloat as:

Bloat is described as the tendency to replace efficient and focused applications with less efficient enhanced versions, inefficiencies or unnecessary modules in program design and operation, and the incorporation of extended features which will be extraneous or low value for most users but slow down the program overall even if unused.

Sounds about right to me. Thats what is wrong with the software industry.

What do you guys think?



Bryce Whitty

About the Author

Bryce Whitty
More articles by me...
Bryce is an Australian computer technician and the founder of Technibble. He started his computer repair business when he was 17 years old and is still running it 9 years later. He is an avid traveller and spends at least a month of the year in another country.

Comments (28)

  • John G says:

    And back to the repair side…explaining to a customer with no tech savvy at all, why their pc is responding so slowly after installing the “bloat” they purchased.

  • gunslinger says:

    I agree 100% with everything you said, especially when it comes to Vista. Other products that have suffered the same fate are Nero and Roxio ( I just want to make CD’s and DVD’s that work), 5 years ago Nero was the burning program to have at only 35 mb or so, now its a bloated piece of crap at over a gig in size. Certain compressed file programs , one reason I made the switch to 7-zip, media players as well. I have seen this over and over again. I don’t think the problem is just trying to add new features either. Sometimes another company buys out the product and seems to take away everything it used to do well. Microsoft and Symantec both love to do this. Like you said, this drives people to free programs that don’t suffer from bloat but then guess what happens? These free programs get really popular, and the makers figure out the can make money with them. So they start charging for them. Next thing you know the want to add new features, and the downward cycle continues . Look at great free programs like Ccleaner. I have been using this program for years and it has only gotten better. I really hope it stays this way but common sense tells me it wont. Sooner or later someone out there will see a profit to be made and buy it. Most likely screwing it up in the process.
    Now as far as Windows Vista is concerned, That is the main thing I have against it , ALL THE STUPID BLOAT THAT I CANNOT REMOVE. With Windows XP I could go in with programs like Nlite and xplite and remove all the crap that I did not want. Trimming my OS down to a nice 300-350 megs. Using less than 100 megs of RAM. Then along comes Vista with the promise of all these new and useful features all wrapped up in shinny glass. The only thing improved was search and even that is a direct rip off of spotlight. Some might say that you can still remove features and software from Vista, I say try it and watch your OS stability go right out the window. Vista now uses over 700 megs of RAM and takes up over 7 gigs on a fresh install. All for what? Spotlight and glass? Its now the king of all bloatware crapware. You are right about Xp being the sweet spot. Thats why I’ll be staying with it until something better comes along. Just because something is new and shiny does not make it better. People with real life experience and common sense know this to be true.

  • You all know that it is more common to add onto existing code and to reuse existing code rather than start over from scratch. It’s easier to make it look new than to actually code a new product. And it seems that all the flaws are fueling the tech support market, if the software were perfect, there’d be nothing to fix. What tires me is when you put all these bloated programs on a PC and the companies still promote to users improved performance. The accumulated effect of several bloated softwares on one PC is always waiting for the desktop to be ready for use (point, click and wait). Linus Torvalds of Linux fame said that the OS should be invisible to the user. That is a very reasonable statement. On a MS system I am so aware of Norton which should be running in the background with minimum graphical disturbance. I agree that XP is the sweet spot but look at all the security upgrades. Then on my newer PC that came with XP plus trial and demo software, I was forced to live with it or delete it myself. You would think that with all its wealth and resources, Microsoft could afford to have on their back burner a Windows from scratch project not tied to marketing release schedules, using an efficient coding practice and not a money bilking motive. It is no wonder that committed programmers and developers have launched open source projects. I can get Linux plus a load of open source softwares on a 700MB CD and do all that I could do with a MS install. What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with Norton and Microsoft?

  • chuck817 says:

    most of the software we have a love/hate relationship has not been redeveloped since the mid 1990’s
    all they have been doing is adding on features and fixing problems with the software
    as you quote Symantec Norton Internet Security the same goes with McAfee products along with adobe products and Microsoft products also

    its time to wipe the slate clean and start again
    but will companies do that NO way because it cuts down on the money that they can gleem from the consumer for over priced hyped up products. And thus we get multi-million dollar advertisement showing us new cool features we drool over for a few seconds but soon relize what we really got was seriously flawed and bloated overpriced CRAPWARE .

    but not all is lost some companies are out there doing some good in computer land like foxit reader and like the antivirus company I use now ESET.com (they produce nod32 antivirus)
    its 1/3 of the size of most antivirus programs and uses less than 1/4 of the resources and does the same job just as fast and sometimes even faster plus the fact that they are a lot cheaper than there compitatiors
    The bad news they are not in stores its a download only software from there web page and you got to know about it to find there services.
    and a lot of time they are not always listed even when Googled it’s mostly by word of mouth

  • Jaime Rosario says:

    Look at the games today… some 10 years ago, games were mainly of content, and you could play a game hours and hours without finishing it. Today, you can finish a game in less than 3 hours because there is so much graphics effects, and that is what player pay. I prefer to frag with Quake 2 or 3 than with some of the newer games which sucks a lot of ram and hd space with cpu, and do the same. Just frag your opponent.

    I prefer old games because of that. The same as software. Look at Wordperfect. Wordperfect 6.1 was the best word processor available before Novell sold it to Corel… then with Corel the program was not the same. Less professional features. then Microsoft had the best Word with 2000. XP and 2003 were good in some features, at the cost of downloading templates and other features… people who didn’t have internet were screwed. Thanks to OpenOffice that doesn’t need the Internet to operate.

  • Jayson says:

    That’s right on target. When I hear people talking about Vista they usually say I won’t get it and I’m sticking with XP or I have it and it’s not much better – just a few more features and nothing impressive. That’s Microsoft’s problem, they lack innovation. They’ve offered great products for years but nothing exciting has been produced lately.

  • chuck817 says:

    there is nothing seriously wrong with vista as long as you build a computer that can handle it
    building a computer with minimum specifications and expecting it to run with all the bells and whistles turned on is just not going to happen
    this goes for windows xp as well as windows vista
    Microsoft minimum specification has always been out to lunch since the days of windows95 there ideas are from a technical stand point not a working standpoint vista compliant means vista will run on a computer but just barely (don’t try running anything else with that cause it will cause a crash)
    vista Compatible means that vista works and you can software with it (not high end games for that you need more of everything sorry)

    now everybody is putting down vista but I fix pc’s and a lot of my clients bought new computers with vista on it and other than upping the ram to 2GB there hasn’t been a serious issue with the OS
    I even run vista as my gaming computer
    because I use the latest and greatest of every thing I can afford jammed into it and still there has been no problems for the last 9 months
    and if we still want to seriously listen to the competitions exploitation of every minor little flaw blowing the smallest little problem up to where its utterly a complete disaster for the huge giant MS Corp
    then it should be shame on us because we are not looking at the whole picture

    Linux machine cost el cheap O does business applications very well doesn’t play games well

    Apple machines does business applications very well play games well cost 2 to 3 time a windows machine to purchase
    the windows machines are the middle of the road thats why over 90% of the people have them.

  • gunslinger says:

    @ chuck817

    “there is nothing seriously wrong with vista as long as you build a computer that can handle it”

    Wrong. My system has a 2.4 ghz core 2 CPU, 4 gigs of pc 6400 RAM, and Vista runs like a slug on it while xp flys. Any system that will run vista will run xp at least 15-40% faster and I can back it up with numbers.Vista offers nothing over xp other than dx10.

  • I have mixed feelings to be honest.

    My PC runs XP Home like a dream. I get very few crashes and spend many an hour actually using the PC, not glaring at BSOD such as the days of Windows 98.

    So, I am in my OS comfort zone and nobody has given me enough positives to make me want to change to Vista.

    Norton is a different kettle of fish. It drains resources and is overbearing most of the time….but I can’t get away from the need to use a reliable “nanny” program. My 14 year old doesn’t want me looking over her shoulder, so I use NIS 2007’s parental controls. Not perfect but cut’s out 99% of what we don’t want her to see.

    If I could find a separate app that did the job better, I would switch.

  • gunslinger says:

    @ Steve Elliott

    A good key logger and the taking away of the cell phone and going out with friends every time she looks at something she should not. worked wonders for my 14 year old son and 16 year old girl.

  • I’d say that you couldn’t be more right!

    Norton is pretty bad. Very slow. I like kaspersky myself.

    I do hope that for our sake, that the next OS by windows, is not bloated and slow like Vista is :(

  • gunslinger says:

    Maybe after SP1 comes out and more programs made for tweaking Vista come out it will get better. I hope so.

  • Dan says:

    I want to revert to XP because I find vista’s performance is unacceptable. This has nothing to do with the power of my laptop. What problem can I have if I make this move? Do I need to download the sound drivers for XP or anything else? Please advise what I need to do and how to do it.

    Thanks

    JD

  • Bryce W says:

    Dan, just make sure there are XP drivers for that laptop before you attempt the downgrade. I have seen many people attempt the downgrade only to find that XP drivers for their particular laptop were never made.

  • Abigail says:

    I think your opinion is right. I experienced it in many software…That’s why I prefer to use the older version software to avoid insufficiency memory due to a lot of unecessary features.

  • Edan says:

    I still haven’t had the chance to use Vista (to my great shame and dismay – I’m supposed to start supporting it within a few months…), but as far as Norton is concerned, I find that the excuse of all of the added features slowing down the product to be very lame and unconvincing.
    I’ve always been a Norton man (1996-2004 more or less) and had normally been very satisfied with the product. However, I finally decided to move away from it when it became too slow for my liking and too heavy on the system which it was supposed to support. When booting up, it took about 5 minutes for all of the modules to start up and run the “short” startup scan. When double-clicking the systray icon, it could take up to 30 seconds for the console to be displayed.
    The product which I’ve chosen to replace it with was ZoneAlarm, which I’ve been using since 2004. ZoneAlarm has all the features offered by Norton (AV, FW, ID Protection, Email protection, et al), only without putting your OS on crutches. You can’t even measure the time it takes from double-clicking the systray icon until the console pops up, as it happens straight away.

    So, in short:
    Dear Norton, while many of us share a sentiment or two for the good ol’ NAV, we vote with our wallets. No excuse is acceptable for bad service!

    Edan

  • Checkmate says:

    I would agree with the above, but unfortunately I’ve had to go out and start using Vista. But for the most part, I run Vista Business on my laptop, and honestly have not seen a drop in performance compared to XP that I used to run on it. But that’s just my experience

  • gunslinger says:

    @ Checkmate

    stay with Vista for a while then go back to a fast PC using XP and see if you can’t tell a big difference. I just worked on a Dell laptop running Vista. I took about 7 mins. once started before I could actually do anything on it. The HDD was crying for mercy. Once booted up I clicked the control panel and started waiting. About 5 mins. later it was still not up. I went to the task manager and stopped it, then tried it again. This time the first 4-5 Icons came up and the all too familiar green bar started, about 3 mins later the control panel was open and I could start working. I have worked on about 60 Vista system sense it came out and this is very typical, just another day with Vista. I’m actually thinking about charging more just to work with a Vista machine. I’m already charging more on average because a simple task that takes maybe 30 seconds in XP takes 15 mins. in Vista.

  • Checkmate says:

    @Gunslinger

    Ouch. I’ve noticed that my Business edition appears alot faster than the home versions. That could be because it’s not as intensive with the media bloat. I’ve been out on-site and had a person comment that my little laptop appeared to run faster than his Velocity Micro Vista Ultimate machine.

    Laptop Specs:
    CPU: Intel Centrino Duo T2300 1.66Ghz
    RAM: 1526MB

  • gunslinger says:

    “I’ve noticed that my Business edition appears a lot faster than the home versions. That could be because it’s not as intensive with the media bloat.”

    If you know of a way to remove all the bloat without nuking the OS I’d love to know about it.

  • I can’t stand Norton. It’s a virus.

  • This is especially true with HP and their printer drivers. Ever have to install the software included with an HP All-In-One Printer? Hope you have a Snickers bar, because you’re gonna be there awhile.

    In some cases drivers/software installs for these HP printers exceed 550mb!

    HP makes great printers, but they can’t make a driver lately to save their lives. Then they pack the CDs with more trialware and make the drivers enormous.

    What happened HP? Making too much money? I’m doing my part by buying Canon/Lexmark/Epson/Samsung printers from now on.

  • N says:

    I like Vista.

    Granted, I bought a machine (Dell) with it installed on it — then wiped it clean myself and reinstalled it to remove all the add in crap.

    But I think it’s great. I love all the new Explorer enhancements, the interface changes, and overall I find it a solid, chunky experience.

  • Robaye says:

    ACDSee, Quicktime are a couple more examples. Ever use Winfax btw? I don’t mind Vista with SP1 on my newer notebook. Wow factor, though? Don’t think so.

    My HP notebook is fine, but I don’t want another HP, or Epson for that matter, printer or scanner.

  • Jura says:

    Well, after a point I’d think you’d remove unused features and make it flexible. I think it’s possible for a software to not go crazy if the developers remain focused finding a balance between what is needed and what users demand. Not just add everything and say here.

  • Neil says:

    Vista is awful. I have recently become a fan of Windows 7 having installed the BETA version and must say although it is still in BETA it actually feels better that Vista

  • J says:

    2 Pretty words… Download Ubuntu (Ubuntu 8.10 to be exact). Its linux, its free, its very fast. I’ve been using ubuntu for 2 years. The only thing I dont like about it is it has a hard time playing any kind of game. Video card compatibility for gaming is its flaw. I’ve been very impressed with the quickness of the Operating system updates, very fast. All Free. You dont need a microsoft product death key. It is setup almost like Windows Xp. Doesnt need anti virus, doesnt need a firewall, but I’d get one anyway. No spyware, no adware. You can uninstall/roll back any non working programs, you dont have to rely on the software maker to provide its own uninstall program. The OS provides a search function for finding new programs, and downloads and installs them/ EVEN updates them by itself. This part makes Microsoft look stupid. Then… it has a program called “WINE” Its a windows emulator, in other words, any program you have on windows, can be installed in Ubuntu’s operating system. You just have to download Wine first, and dont worry about installing it in a technical step by step, ubuntu does it all for you, enter in the program WINE in the install/update program and it finds it for you. After that, your flying. Ubuntu is gaining popularity it seems almost as fast as Windows did when it came out retail. From my experience, if your a windows user and you want to switch over to a linux open source operating system, ubuntu is the place to start. You might be a little confused at first on how to navigate the update utilities, but from what im seeing, it gets easier every version. Ubuntu provides free upgrades and free overall operating systems every 2 years. I’ve taken Slackware 10.0 in college courses which is one of the earliest linux operating systems (Bare bones do it yourself install stuff). Ubuntu is setup for linux beginners. Their website will mail you a free copy of their complete operating system or you can download it and burn it onto a cd-r and install it that way.

  • Ian Pulsford says:

    Computers have advanced far enough these days that low end (almost) *silent* and extremely low power consuming computers like the eeebox will do what many people want to do. I think many people get oversold on bigger and “better” these days. The future is the computer as an appliance. Give me silence, efficiency and simplicity over a moaning power guzzler any day.