Monday, May 29, 2006

TRENDS | Pay-as-you-go cards for PCs

The mobile industry has it, so why not the PC industry?

That's what Microsoft was thinking when it introduced a PC rental schememodeled on a pay-as-you-go package.
It's called FlexGo, and is a framework that allows suppliers to rent out PCsactivated by pre-pay cards. Consumers buy access to the machine for a certainperiod of time; then when the card is out of credit, the PC refuses accessuntil the user buys more runtime.

Simple and easy to understand for consumers; and it could be a hit in regionswhere people just can't afford to buy PCs and can't get a loan to buy one either.Trials have already started, prior to Microsoft's announcement this week.

Apparently, pay-as-you-go PC schemes have been successful in Brazil, Mexico,Russia, Slovenia, Vietnam and more to come.

Another benefit of the FlexGo technology Microsoft is adopting is that itenables subscription models, which could allow ISPs to provide customers withPC access on top of the Internet time purchased. The possibilities are exciting.Some, though, may be concerned by the point that users could end up paying theprice of a PC after several months of use.

But that won't be the case for most users, only for the ones who don't havethe common sense to realize that buying a PC with that kind of heavy use is abetter idea.

This initiative by Microsoft comes at a time when several international companies and bodiesare working towards cheaper computing for the masses, as part of aim ofbridging the digital divide between rich and poor countries.

Earlier this month, Intel unveiled its 'budget' laptop PC initiative incooperation with MIT, which is a $100 laptop!

Hewlett-Packard has similar ideas now brewing and companies like Sun aredonating PC to labs in universities and schools across the world, includingJordan!More social responsibility from ICT giants is a welcome development and whereby communities that become computer literate may become better marketsfor their products.

It's a long-range view, and the foundation of corporatesocial responsibility schemes.Which makes it ridiculous for critics, who have already raised their voices,to say that Microsoft is launching this initiative to push its own software onthese PCs.

To be fair, Microsoft has many on-going initiatives aimed at less fortunateusers; whether it\'s free or low priced software for libraries and schools indeveloping nations, or actual donations in millions to good causes.

This latest initiative will be viewed from different angles, and some peoplewill treat it with suspicion.

The bottom line is that the end user will benefit. If Microsoft achieves anybusiness gains in the coming years because of it, so be it!


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