To each his own
"Why is it that almost every person that's commented on this story has gone on about Microsoft and so on?"
Erm... Because this is an article about the compulsory bundling of MS software on retail computers.
"Surely if the man was told that he'd get loads of rubbish when he bought the product then that's his problem?"
Daniel, do you really not get it or have you got into an argument and don't want to back down? Let's go back to the car analogy... Let's say Ford do a deal with a baby seat manufacturer and the deal requires Ford pay for a seat for every car they produce whether or not the customer takes the seat. Ford raise the price of all their cars by $50, include a baby seat and the brochure gets changed to read "includes a baby seat." The conditions of sale also prevent me from selling or giving the baby seat to someone who actually does want it or from using it in my other car. I do not have a baby and have no intent of having one within the time I will own this new car. Why should I be forced to give $50 (less Ford's and the retailer's cuts) to the baby seat company when I'm never going to use their product? That's the first point.
I get my new car and unwanted baby seat. I see a sticker on the box the baby seat comes in (stuck there by the manufacturer) that includes a promise (amongst all the other instructions and warnings) that says that if I don't agree with the warnings or don't want the seat I can return it unopened to the retailer for a refund of my $50. I go back to the dealer, box in hand, and try to return it and get my money. Neither the dealer nor Ford get their share of the $50 back from the baby seat company so they do everything they can to avoid paying me. That was the second problem in this case. The terms of the deal between Ford and the baby seat company should be irrelevant to me (why should I care if they were stupid enough to sign a crappy deal?) but clearly have a huge bearing on Ford's and the dealer's behaviour after the fact. IMHO this deal that obliges vendor refunds without compensation from MS are unfair and this needs to be addressed for the good of the consumer.
Thinking about it differently the PC retailers are actually getting ripped off here too. MS are prepared to sell HP copies of Windows for $30 (or whatever it costs) but won't sell it to the retailers for anything near that price.
These problems could be addressed quite simply. Take the $30 off the price of the machines and sell them bare. Give the retailer nice slim packs of bootable Ghost discs with COA stickers inside. When I hand over my credit card I get asked "Would you like Windows with that, Sir?" If I say "yes" I get charged the $30 for these discs and am given them. Since they are image discs the customer doesn't need to install Windows and make any more difficult choices than they do now. They just put the first disc in and turn the machine on. It boots from the disc and splats the hard drive with the same pre-installed stuff it would have had if it had been imaged in the factory. This disc could be BIOS locked to a particular manufacturer's hardware to reduce piracy (just like the Ghost discs that came in the box with my current machine.) The manufacturer supports it, the same as they do now. No problem, you get what you want, I get what I want. The retailer could even have a second set of Windows image discs with Office preloaded and charge more for them if that's what the customer wants.
Windows is a negative value to my business. Having it obliges me to spend further cash on antivirus subscriptions and plough man hours into supporting it to keep it working. Vista would make me prematurely replace otherwise perfectly good hardware at my cost. XP and Vista are simply not the right choices for us.
"Any before I get flamed by the linux fanboys..I've installed ubuntu on about 10 machines before setting them loose on ebay - I just wanted a laptop that I knew would work and I didn't have the time fiddling to get it up and running.."
You seem to have a preconception that Linux is an inferior product. Good enough for a machine you're selling but not good enough for you. These days I install Ubuntu because I want a machine that works and I don't have to wipe its ass continuously. I can't remember the last time I had to go into serious surgery on a Linux box because the OS broke and I've never had a spyware or virus infecton on one. I can install my Laptop with Kubuntu from fresh, update it and get it just how I want it in under 2 hours. To get a machine from a vanilla XP SP2 install to the same state takes me most of a day and yes, I am an experienced Windows admin too. Our experiences clearly differ.
PCs are a tool for my business and not the reason for its existence. I want PCs to enhance its productivity and not be a drain on its resources. Put simply, I just want to get the job done. There is no reason correctly configured images can't be made of any OS for easy customer deployment.
I do have XP on dual boot on one machine for a couple of customer applications that won't run under WINE. I use it less than once a month now. On my hardware it's slower and less productive as well as being more expensive and harder to maintain.