It takes only about five minutes to set up a new personal computer by clicking through a series of introductory screens. In that time, however, many consumers choose software and services they will often use for the life of their machine. Historically, Microsoft Corp. held great sway over this “first-boot sequence” as well as other software preinstalled in the factory.
Now PC makers including Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. are beginning to take more control over this crucial real estate. They increasingly are trying to sell this space to service providers and software makers, such as Google Inc. After a year of sometimes tense negotiations with Google and PC makers, Microsoft has ceded ground on some key technical details.
In what would be the most significant example of this shift, Google is in serious negotiations to get its software installed on millions of Dell PCs before they are shipped to users, according to people familiar with the matter. Under the deal being discussed, Google, of Mountain View, Calif., could pay Dell fees approaching $1 billion over three years, these people estimate.