Microsoft Signature is a Windows 8 Precursor

Microsoft's WIndows Signature program eradicates bloateware and unifies the Windows 7 computing experience, but at what expense? As Microsoft subverts its partner's practices, is Microsoft actually making the right kind of moves?

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Microsoft is expanding its Signature PC program by launching a unique Microsoft Signature Web store, which offers "signature" PCs from a variety of vendors. The price tag is essentially the same from the vendor directly, but the difference is that Microsoft will install its anti-virus security essentials, offer 90 days free phone support, and eliminate that aforementioned bloatware.

The Microsoft Signature program is nothing new. Users have been able to an hand over $99 to Microsoft and have their Windows 7 bloatware machine cleaned up into a Microsoft Signature Windows machine.

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If you have some time to kill, you can pop on over to the site now and watch the amusing video, wherein Microsoft explains how bloatware can bog down your machine, slow down boot times and generally cause problems. If you're scratching your head, wondering what's going on, you wouldn't be alone. Microsoft has essentially launched a two-prong attack on its very own PC channel, both decrying the bloatware installation practices of its partners while simultaneously double-dipping on Windows 7 sales with the stripped-down Signature solution.

For the tech savvy, this seems ludicrous. Anyone with a pair of working synapses can simply format and do a clean re-install of a new PC. It doesn't cost $99 and the bloatware is gone. But Microsoft is clearly prying on the less tech savvy among us, while it simultaneously looks to turn Windows 7 -- and Windows 8 --  into a more streamlined and unified operating system, consistent from PC to PC, much like Apple has already done. The problem is, this simultaneously subverts the idea that Microsoft's OEM partners are providing users with value, while Microsoft increases the level of control it has over it the operating system experience.

As an Apple fan-boy, I have no problem with a 'controlled' experience. OS X and iOS are some of the best computing experiences I've ever had. But when Microsoft declares it would prefer all users to have the same Windows experience, it's considerably harder to make this happen, especially with a missing hardware . This is why Microsoft's solution is the Windows Signature store.

But here's the funny part: Microsoft is right. Whether you disagree or agree with Microsoft's moves, bloatware, unneeded software and annoying applications do suck up disk space and clutter the Windows registry. Sadly, many of these applications aren't even the real deal. Vendors frequently ship demo or trial versions of software which can turn whatever value these applications once had into a digital paperweights inside 30 days.

There's a bit more to all this than Windows 7 bloatware, however. Now that Microsoft recognizes the value in providing a clean and unified computing experience, its efforts will become doubly important when Windows 8 machines and tablets start arriving. If the Metro experience is not respected by partners, all the work Microsoft has done to provide a paradigm-changing Windows OS will be for naught. Metro's success, like it or not, rests upon Microsoft's capabilities for emulating the same 'closed' ecosystem that  Apple has successfully pioneered. Without that, Metro will be a mess of bloated tiles like its desktop predecessor.

So Microsoft Signature, while clearly a mind-bending experiment for the Windows 7 world, has set the stage for the Windows 8 world. It's not good or bad, it's just different. It will force OEMs to reevaluate on how they provide 'value' to the consumer -- and while some will decry the practice -- it's hard to dispute that Microsoft is finally pushing for something that's worthwhile. In the long run, this move will prove successful for Microsoft.

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