I helped someone set up their brand spanking new Acer laptop a while ago. The hardware was fine, as hardware usually is, but the software was diabolical. Also as software usually is.
It took about an hour and a half from first boot to interacting with the machine. Some of that time was Windows Vista doing its thing, but a large chunk was a suite of Acer crapware that auto-installs itself and gets its grubby little hooks into every nook and cranny of the system. All of the useless trinkets are launched from a bloated always-on-top Launcher bar that handily defaults to being in the middle of the screen. There's even some kind of half-assed file encryption thing that inserts giant "Encrypt file" and "Decrypt file" icons into every single Windows Explorer window.
This is old, old news to anyone who sets up new Windows computers, but this is the first new machine I've used for years, and the horror stories are true. For all the visual niceties of Vista's Aero interface, and all the clunkiness of Ubuntu's hardware support, the latter is actually easier for a neophyte to get into a usable state. Windows touts zero-configuration user-friendliness, but what is one supposed to do with the following message?:
Setup cannot continue while another setup program is running. Please close the other installer.
(Or words to that effect.)
That was while running nothing but the installer for Norton 360 (an unfortunate and cumbersome digital prophylactic for a user who does not practise safe computing; abstinence is the only way to be sure!). Indeed, this was the very first piece of software we put on the machine. How is a newbie supposed to proceed from that error message? I don't see how it's any less intractable a problem than Ubuntu not playing mp3s by default.
It wasn't much better installing the other basic software on the machine. MSN Messenger is incompatible with the Acer crapware (absolutely hilarious), MSN games don't work even in IE7 (huh?), and Sony's Sonic Stage just plain wages war against its own users. Never have the sweet green pastures of Amarok looked sweeter or greener by comparison.