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back to article Microsoft eyes metered-PC boondoggle

Microsoft hopes to charge you for PC hardware and software in much the same way wireless carriers charge you for text messages. As detailed in a patent application recently unveiled by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Redmond seeks exclusive rights to a "Metered Pay-As-You-Go Computing Experience." This would involve saddling …

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Sounds like a great idea...

You know any security will be cracked within days and we'll all have shit cheap, unrestricted linux boxes!

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feedin' trolls

I have the nagging feeling this is a stupendous act of patent trolling, with MS taking a legitimately good idea from somewhere it could be useful (and getting a lever on the SaaS stupidity) and preventing its meaningful development.

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Linux

Linux?

Isn't this what Linux was designed to prevent?

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Well,

they can bite my shiny metal ass.

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I know what they are trying

Who can go bankrupt first? Msoft or Zimbabwe?

Frankly they can FRO, Methinks this idea is about 40 years beyond where people would consider it even rremotely.

Let me guess they have a pile of "advertising partners" and govt depts salivating at the new data they can capture and the opins they can restrict you to seeing

God we are living in orwells 1984

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wondering...

Wonder if Microsoft and other corps will eventually force suppliers to include this "pay as you go" model hardwired into computers, much like the RIAA/MPAA has forced suppliers to include DRM hardware. No subscription? Sorry, no computer.

I for one think it's too stupid an idea to work. But I realize there are a lot of really stupid people out there who could probably be convinced. Much like those buying into "cloud" computing really.

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Software patents rule!

I'm glad Microsoft have patented this.

It will prevent others from doing it. And Microsoft might try out this idiotic scheme themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Not going to work

Simple fact is, I bought a PC for £390 and I can use it when I want for what I want, there is no way I am going to keep paying for it just to use it. I do enough of that with Internet access, electricity and monthly game subscriptions.

For this to work you would have to be given the latest, best specification machine free of charge, with free upgrades and replacement all the time to justify the running costs, and that would destroy the hardware business since no-one in their right mind is going to opt for a £400 value machine over a £4000 value machine if they have to pay the same to use them to do the same things.

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£0 per hour (excluding electricity cost of course)

Meh!

I'll stick with Ubuntu for a cost of £0 per hour (excluding electricity cost). I somehow don't thing Microsoft would do anything like this just yet (althothough I'm sure they'll never rule it out).

Now all I have to do is harness the power of flatulance to run my PC. Hey if cows give off methane it has to be doable somehow.

Rob

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Is anyone surpised?

Anyone who has been paying attention will have guessed that Gates and co have been fantasizing about this for years. Indeed, it was probably an addendum to Gates's initial vision: my software, running on everyone's computer, (and wouldn't it be great if I could charge by the hour for it?).

As to why it's emerging now, we can only guess. Maybe they think they've nothing to lose. After all, they managed to release Vista...

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Stop

Shocking

Siemens have done this with their HiPath Telephone Systems

Licencing each component, Trunk Lines, IP, Etc Etc

It's now a VERY costly exercise to set up a new top of the range phone system.

Not only that, they licence the IP clients per seat, not in bulk

Ho Hum

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This seems familiar

I can't put my finger on it, but I'm pretty sure this has been tried already. If I remember correctly, the turnout was something like "EPIC PHAILE".

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I poropse we call this:

pay-per-clip ...oops I meant click... pay-per-click

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M$ Question ....

..... will we be able to charge M$ back when the kit adjusts performance towards the BSOD / Crash (oops, lost yer data there) Mode?

Perhaps, upon restarting the friggin thing, the debug script will activate 60 seconds worth of credits to smooth things over.

Or, peeps will crack the ting and we will be offered $$$$ worth of play-time credits by email, so long as we buy some penis pills (reminds me to re-stock).

What a jolly future lies in store for computing all over the world by these means.

(Climbs into loft space to retrieve and dust off trusty abacus and slide-rule gizmos).

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Gates Horns

Not patenting the wheel, but getting close...

Hmm... It's New Year's, not April Fool's day. Did ElReg get the date wrong or is this a serious proposal?

Unless I read this wrong, this patent has nothing to do with what software is on the computer, much less anything to do with online access. It's right at the hardware level, right? You have to pay a fee just to turn the damn thing on... LInux won't make any difference if the thing won't start marching in the first place.

"'Beyond simple activation, the user may be able to select a level of performance related to processor, memory, graphics power, etc. that is driven not by a lifetime maximum requirement, but rather by the need of the moment,' Microsoft's shameless patent application continues."

Buy the machine, then buy the right to use it?

Again, is this serious, am I reading it all wrong, or...what?

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Linux

Where do we go for refunds?

Where do we apply for a refund for the 15 minutes a time it takes my workstation (Dell T3400, core 2, 2gig) to actually boot into Fista.

My home machine, by contrast (2004 vintage Novatech original AMD 64bit thingy & 512K) boots into XP in about a minute & a half (not a single "update" since 2004) & into Ubuntu (HH) in under a minute.

Anyway, "Pay to use MS Orofice" never, they'd have to pay me to use it :-)

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Unhappy

Microsoft continues to dig its grave

With antics like this, I'm surprised their stock isn't worthless.

They already killed Windows XP -- a cash cow. Clearly they don't understand that they blew it with their fans, and anyone who wants to get around this will use an Apple or Linux derivative.

I miss the old Microsoft...

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Not gonna happen...

Lets see.. My PC is a 2.4GHz P4 with 4GB RAM, .5TB of hard disc and an old nvidia card that does Compiz 3D effects quite nicely. Over the last 6 years (the motherboard was bleeding edge when I bought it) I have spent perhaps $1200.00 on the computer itself (initial purchase + storage-device up[grades (CD/DVD/HDs, & RAM), one video upgrade, replace power supply once etc). This number does not include printers, monitors, routers, hubs, scanners, Internet access, domain name fees, etc, but does include the mouse, keyboard and original floppy drive (yes I still have one and sometimes I actually use it).

So lets see... thats (1200/6)/12 = $16.67 a month. As each day goes by the cost per month slowly but surely goes down. The PC has earned me more than it cost, it has paid for itself. The only way I will replace this machine is if it dies or if I actually need something faster (which at the moment (thanks to Linux) I don't).

If M$ had it their way I am sure I would be spending more than the paltry $16.67 a month I have incurred to date, and while one could still make the hardware pay for itself, the subscription costs will likely have an upward trend; firmly placing the cost:benefit ratio in favour of purchasing the hardware once.

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Gates Horns

It was our idea first!!

Dangit!

We at the auto industry were trying to do that but MS beat us to it. We were getting ready to file that you would have to pay per mile that you drive after you buy the car - that way, if you drive less, you pay less - it saves on gas, less cars on the road, less emissions.... Backing up to reverse this effect would be charged double :)

Dammit Gates.... how can you beat us to this concept!

ROFLMAO

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Joke

Yes, yes, oh yes

Who wouldn't want to pay for this?

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When the need is browsing, a low level ..

... of performance may be used

GASP ... Vista hogs 1.1 Gb of RAM just to boot on a fresh re-install. Looks to me "low level of perf" will always be there even when charged for top notch speed.

I've got a Desktop with a 5.6 mark on the Saffir-Vista-Simpson scale and it slugs. This all sounds too familiar you'll end up paying $1.25 to use notepad, and they'll introduce the recommended $2.14 rate.

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Gates Horns

not all that surprising

It's been on the horizon for quite a while as we have been reaching the point where Moore's law no longer applies. PC's are one of those 'buy once, keep pretty much forever' things, I have a C64 under my bed which works fine but a combination of hardware innovation and software that requires ever more powerful hardware has driven me to keep with the upgrade cycle. Now that hardware innovation is floundering there is less incentive to upgrade to the latest operating system (as Microsoft found with Vista) and so other revenue streams must be found.

In the server market the answer has been that wonderful snake oil, visualization where ever more cores and RAM are shoehorned onto machines so that they can run multiple instances of an operating system all because the OS was badly designed in the first place and can't keep apps from interfering with each other. Everything that visualization achieves on one box (hardware abstraction, process isolation etc) should be achieved by a good operating system but instead we are encouraged to run a dozen instances of the same bloated OS on our hardware so we can run a dozen apps on the same machine.

Small cheap computers have proven that low end hardware, when combined with a lightweight but feature rich OS (such as linux) or a 'legacy' OS like XP can do all the things that most users need and this means that we have no need for a gazillion cores and a terabyte of RAM to run the next iteration of Windows so MS has to do something to generate a revenue stream and this is one option on the table along with making Windows licenses expire after 12 months so you have to relicense it (remember kiddies, they don't sell software they sell a license to use it).

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IBM...

Well, IBM did this a little for mainframes. Ship 'em with spare CPUs, you can pay to use them. Or, if a CPU fails*, the OS automatically migrates things to a spare CPU, and an engineer comes out to replace the failed CPU, with 0 downtime. If you need more CPU power, you "buy" more CPUs and some guy just types in a code and turns them on (as long as you don't want a *lot* more CPUs which might involve actually installing some.)

*No worries about the CPU giving bad results *before* it fails. Traditionally, the mainframe CPU would runs two pipelines, with comparator circuits -- so it catches a bad CPU right away when the results don't match. Since everything on mainframes runs in virtual machines, it can then move the VM onto a working CPU.

=============

*BUT*... something like "oh you want to burn a CD? Pay $1 to use your burner", having to pay to use the CPUs you already have, apparently while ALSO paying per hour for the apps you run on those CPUs, is absurd. The patent filing indicates an 8-core box -- for word processing, surfing, etc. they recommend 4 cores, which is absurd... that's just no work at all for a single core to take care of.

Ubuntu will DEFINITELY take care of this problem. And, people say Ubuntu is faster than Windows *now*.. imagine some future point, where Ubuntu sees the 8 cores while Windows-by-the-hour sees 1 core because that's all you've paid for. That'll REALLY make Ubuntu seem faster hahaha.

I bet this could lead to ridiculous situations... maybe someone will be suckered into this, then they can tell their kids doing the homework, "OK write out your paper on this pad of paper first so you know what you're going to type, that computer time is expensive!" I'll sure feel bad for them.

Does Microsoft not realize that there's like $200 PCs now, free competition for most of their software, and people's opinion of MIcrosoft already in the dumps due to Vista -- this is not the time for them to try to nickle and dime their remaining customers. And with $200 or so PCs already available (plus places like where I work selling fully-functional P4 machines for under $100)... I mean, there's just not much room between $200 and $0 for them to squeeze in these machines...

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Gates Horns

WTF?

It's a bit early for Aprils Fools Jokes, isn't it?

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Kinko's(FedEx) Has been doing this for years

Shows you the very poor quality of patent examiner. Kinko's has been renting metered PC's for a decade. And this is how IBM rents out time on their big systems, you buy the capacity you want when you want it in real time. IBM has been doing that trick for TWO decades. So Microsoft has another bogus and fradulent patent (since they had to know about the others and obviously did not disclose). Is anyone suprised?

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Prior Art?

Surely this is just mainframe computing all over again. I was paying by the cpu-second for access to research computing facilities 25 years ago.

Or are they planning to sell everyone a 16-core 10Ghz processor with 256GB memory, half a dozen graphics cards and 100TB of diskspace, then throttle it down if all you pay for is browsing? I can see /that/ being as long-lived a security system as, well, CSS. Remembe folks, the hardware will be in geeks' hands.

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Everyone else does it ...

I bought my house, but many people rent theirs. People used to rent their TVs. Loads of us rent our phones and get sexy new ones every year or two. We rent our internet acess. Whatever about SaaS we rent Water-as-a-service to drink or wash with or flush.

Pervasive computing gets closer and closer when hot spots will be everywhere, and the possibility that computing services would be able to be supplied with the house and phone service and water services, so someone was likely to go patent-trolling to get in on the act early. If not Tesco, then Microsoft.

Maybe the commenters above still have their own hand-built five-foot satellite dishes in their gardens to aim at the TV satellites, and use CB radios, and drive Q-reg cars, and they will hang onto their hand-built computers with go-fast lights in 'em for years to come when the rest of us are paying rent to Computing Service Providers.

[I don't like it, but neither do I like one CCTV camera per 14 people, and national databases, and pass-law IDs. Just because I'm a dinosaur doesn't mean I can't see it all coming.]

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This Must Be The New Buzz/Meme...

This "pay by the..." model must be the new business buzz for the year. The governor of the State of Oregon proposed a per-mile fee for cars instead of petrol tax the other day - only he wants to use GPS devices in everyone's car to track the use. Instead of using the odometer that's built into everyone's vehicle, he want's all the drivers to install an expensive device that permits not only mileage tracking but tracking speed traveled and places visited.

But they're not going to use it to track movements, dontchaknow. Right.

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Shit me

That's expensive.

I would be broke if I used a system like that. I'm thinking it won't take off in the mainstream unless they force you to somehow. Even then Linux/Mac would steam on ahead unless Apple did the same thing. Then just Linux would.

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Paris Hilton

Do the hardware vedors realise ...

That the coins slot on the uk version will have to be able to take our 50p pieces...

Paris, because even she's not that stoopid

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Linux

Internet Cafe's perhaps

There might just be a market in internet cafe's for this sort of thing, kinda thin client stuff. End user pays for use of software/hardware combi at point of useage.

Me, I'll stick to the cluster of PCs running Debian that I picked up for a pound each (including mice,keyboards,monitors etc.) at the local tip. None of them are what you might call highend gaming machines (i'd buy a PS3 if I wanted one of those) but they are stable and fast enough for my needs (and I don't seem to need a huge harddrive to store the OS).

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They have to find SOME way of making money

Vista tanked so where do they go next ?

Yeah we can all get uppity about how there are alternatives to MS but when push comes to shove, MS are (shock, horror) a corporation. This means they have to look for revenue streams and, as many of us have realised, the desktop OS market is not the gravy train it once was. This patent is less absurd than Apples recent 'swipe interface' patent but only just.

Should be interesting to see just how MS spin this out, epic fail or steady stream ? Im betting on the former :)

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Please insert your credit card...

... before pressing the Power Button...

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Gates Horns

'Software as a Scam'

I would love to have done this for Microsoft Office. It's my most expensive single piece of software, and I use it once in a blue moon. But when it comes to gaming, it sounds more like blackmail - pay up or I'll hobble your PC. Any way, I think Vista already reserves a whole lot of my PC's power; they just haven't implemented the 'pay to get it back' yet (to be marketed as 'Windows 7'...).

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Gates Horns

More prior art

This has existed in a number of environments, mainframe and mini for a large number of years.

Yet another M$ attempt at taking credit for other's work. Shame on them!

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Microsoft has no choice

I don't see where Microsoft has any choice but to try this approach or something like it. Their entire business model was built on a revenue stream that depended on large numbers of desperate users grabbing at the next release in the fervent hope it would solve some of the problems of the last release.

And then came Windows 2000, Office 2000, and (after SP1) Windows XP, and lo, they were Good Enough.

At about the same time, hardware bang-for-buck exceeded the needs of most users (hardcore gamers will always be the exception) and suddenly there just wasn't an overriding reason for most people to upgrade.

Moreover, a few years of dirt cheap hardware (laptops for under $300 US!) pretty much saturated the market. A relative (71 years old) called me last night -- she had been given her first computer for Christmas, and she had lost the little pointy thing.

Microsoft's incredible profits were a result of being on the steep part of the curve, and the curve is flattening out. They need to figure out a new, sustainable revenue stream, and fast. The attraction of the pay-as-you-go scheme is that you still have to pay even if you decide not to upgrade. If they can make it work, it'll be like printing money.

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Pirate

Maybe they dont want it to happen

Maybe they dont want it to happen and want to get the patent to stop anyone else from doing it either.

yes i am sure microsoft is that enlightened :D /s

thats /sarcasm just in case you didnt see it.

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Yes...

...I agree.

Hurry up and die MS (and Apple), and let Linux replace the IT garbage.

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Use for old FDD units!

I'm going to start a business converting old Floppy Disk Drive units to Credit Card reader slots!!

1. Buy up old FFD drives, 50,000 @ 1 cent a piece

2. Convert them to "Pay As You Go Computing Credit Card Readers" (PAYGCCCR)

3. Profit $$$$

4. Sell the business to M$ (who then rent them)

5. Profit again!! $$$$$$$$

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Paris Hilton

Super Dome?

Umm, I know that I saw HP pushing this with Super Dome. Back around, say, 2002. And, I seem to remember that at least one MS OS was on the list of supported OSes. HP would sell you, for instance, a 256 processor machine with a 128 processor license. But come the end of the quarter, you could rent those exta 128 processors.

Paris? WTF does MS have to do with IT, either?

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What??????!!!!!

"But server infrastructure is expensive. PC hardware and software are not. "

Is this article serious? WIndows desktops are a notorious drain on IT budgets everywhere. In many cases needed server upgrades are delayed because desktop costs have taken all the money. Also, Windows desktops are inextricably tied to and dependent on windows servers in any corporation of any size for domain authentication, email, printing, intenet access, shared directories, etc

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@Scott Broukell

" ..... will we be able to charge M$ back when the kit adjusts performance towards the BSOD / Crash (oops, lost yer data there) Mode?"

No, because the processor will be red-hot running that infinite loop/trying to write the memory dump/notifying Redmond of the problem/etc., so you'll get charged extra!

And it will encourage bloatware... browsing is "just" a four-core app today, but the next version of IE will require eight cores to render a text-only site (but it will look *beautiful*, until it all goes blue, see above...)

I'd say this was a dumb idea, and no-one would be stupid enough to buy it, but I'm too afraid it will be the market -leader. Especially when they start selling the PCs for $1. Hmm, reminds me of something... premium-rate phonecalls, now what is the most common service provided on those?

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@ Neil Greatorex

While I can see why you posted the way you did, I have to say your post fails on many levels.

Vista should boot in less than a minute on any mid level PC. I have 2 PCs running vista "one a old P4" and neither takes more than 60 secs to get up and running. These have been running Vista for quite a while and have plenty of Apps installed. I am not saying Vista is perfect but only a very badly setup PC would take more than 90 secs to boot it.

And running XP that has not had "a single update sine 2004"? You have so many unpatched vunerabilities / gaping holes in your OS that you may as well just post your passwords/credit card details straight onto every black ops website out there, that is assuming your collection of bot net clients haven't already done it for you.

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Stop

Prior art?

This is how the mainframe / mini people used to lease their kit in the old days. It wasn't cost effective to actually make all the different variants and sub-variants of product so features were switched on selectively depending on how much the customer was paying.

This fits nicely with modern patent practice.....fill the company with nubes who have no history before C# so they can innocently reinvent the wheel -- over and over. Lawyers, managers and patent examiners are guaranteed to be clueless so we get a rash of "innovation". Personally I with MSFT would invent a working operating system.....they've been at it long enough, they should have cracked it by now.

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I think it's an excellent idea!!!

Now if all the LUGs can write to MS and get them to get this up and running, preferably in the next version of Windows, we will quickly hasten MS's demise.

Just imagine it, you need to pay an extra 2 quid a day to play the latest shat-hot game or CAD package, to "unlock" the potential of that machine you just paid 2k for. No one buys the games, they start pirating even more, the game and software companies decide it's not worth it, they move solely to consoles, where there is less copying. No commerical PC games, no need for Windows.

Companies with 10,000 desktops already financially stretched, say enough is enough, test Ubuntu with Wine and OpenOffice, find it's good enough for what most people want.

We see a rise in online office services through Linux based "dumb-terms" using browsers.

The beast is slain once and for all....

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Sometimes

Sometimes I wonder if El Reg posts articles like this just to see the slathering lunacy of the comments.

Still, on a more serious note perhaps MS is looking at this as the model for its next or future consoles. Where it would perhaps make a bit more sense.

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Go

Another one...

It's deja vu ... all over again (patent pending).

Dear Mr Ballmer, please advise your legal team that I have applied for a patent on the above expression.

Therefore every time you choose to recycle an old computing concept I will be asking for a fee equivalent to the retired Mr Gates' annual income.

As soon as you are ready to remit payment, I will advise relevant bank account details (no, not in Nigeria, in Switzerland if you don't mind).

Happy New Year Mr Ballmer!

And HNY to all readers too.

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Stupidity as a Service

OK, let me get this straight. Microsoft are trying to patent a concept already used by mainframe manufacturers and, in a way, by internet cafes. The more this patently crass stupidity goes on, the more discredited the whole patent system becomes. And don't get me started on software patents...

I've just bought a new mobo (£50), processor (£75), memory (£30) and almost top notch graphics card (£120) to rebuild a PC with a faulty motherboard (Athlon 3000 32 bit, hence the need to buy the other bits) and it cost me about £275 after a lot of shopping around. I last did this for this machine in 2000, and in between it has had a new PSU and a new graphics card, say £125 all told. So over eight years I've spent £400 - that's £1 a week - and I have a nearly top notch box that will play all the modern games (minus those that are tied to Vista) and I'm still using the 'original' Windows XP/Office XP - because they work.

That points out two things to me. First, I've not given Microsoft a penny for using that machine in all that time - excellent! Second, this idea, if it floats at all, is only going to fly for those sufficiently disadvantaged that they can't afford the initial purchase of the hardware. Who then end up paying for use through the nose.

If Microsoft stuck to their core business - OS and Office - and worked hard to do it really, really well at a reasonable price - they would have little to worry about. People will pay to upgrade to a quality OS or Office package that runs well. What they won't do is pay over the top for an upgrade only to find it stinks. Add in a global recession... and hopefully Microsoft will do what most over-extended businesses do in such times. Sell off or shut down the non-core business activities and concentrate on their core business instead.

Well its new year, a man can dream, can't he?

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re:Everyone else does it

the problem as mentioned is that with the home pc the hardware HAS to be in the users hands and therefor easley *modded* look at the problem apple are having trying to do the *rent* an iphone type modle the only reasion it still works with phones is that they are efectley dead after a year so they are thrown away

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Anonymous Coward

Simple.....

Well, if it were ever to be tried, no worries, just Linux as PC OS instead of Windows and console for games. That combo would definitely become a LOT more popular than now. Can't see the idea being pushed out to be honest, but......who knows.

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