updated 11:55 am EST, Mon December 29, 2008
Pay-per-use PCs coming?
Microsoft may be experimenting with the idea of selling PCs in the same way as cellphones are currently sold, patent filings suggest. A recently-published patent application proposes selling "standard model" PCs at a significant discount, with the rest of the price being subsidized by an unspecified part of the supply chain. The real cost would be shifted into a usage contract, determining how long a person would have to use their machine.
Microsoft admits that a subscription PC would thus be more expensive than a regular one, but argues that the tradeoff would be a longer "useful life" made possible by access to cheaper high-end hardware. A more unusual aspect of the patent is that costs could be linked to the actual usage of hardware and software; running database applications or choosing faster graphics performance, for instance, could raise the price of a subscription.
Buyers might alternately be asked to pick from general packages, such as office, gaming or browsing bundles, each with a different hourly rate; expanding functionality would require switching to a new package. Controlling a person's ability to use their computer would be a new security module, locking a PC to a given supplier, while also restricting functionality.