MS Offers Pre-Paid Computing

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Microsoft must have gotten into the Xenu Ship today because they're going nuts. They've created a system called FlexGo which allows folks in developing countries to purchase "time" on free or inexpensive computers and then own the computers after a few hundred hours. That's right: like a 1-900 number, time on your shiny new computer will cost you 75 cents per hour.

Microsoft said the target customer for FlexGo is someone who has used Windows before—at work, school or an Internet cafe, for example—but has not been able to afford a similar machine of their own.

So let's see where this exciting offer will be made available. The first country to get the service is Brazil, a hotbed of Linux activity, so this is obviously aimed at cutting projects like the $100 Linux PC off at the pass. MS needs emerging market mindshare and they need paying customers in the pirate-laden market stalls of China and Russia. The way they're doing it, however, is quite ingenious and quite foolhardy. They're essentially giving away the hardware at a nominal cost and waiting until you're hooked. If you love and need your PC, you pay a yet-unnamed amount to keep it and that's that. Who, however, is to say that they won't hack this thing and turn it into a free Linux PC? While they could digitally sign the hardware, we all know that the street finds its own uses for things.


The next countries to receive the FlexGo service are Russia, India, China and Mexico. Again, if someone in those countries needs a PC, they'll buy one. Obviously there is grinding poverty everywhere, but those folks don't need a PC—they need Bill Gates' malaria shots. On the whole, this looks like someone at MS saw the PR value of the $100 Linux PC and jumped on the bandwagon. It's a nice thought, lads, but the last thing the emerging markets need are more junk computers.

Maybe this is all knee-jerk MS haterage, but it just doesn't seem like a solid plan to me. What think you all?

Microsoft pitches pay-as-you-go PCs []