back to article Microsoft to punt pensioner-proof PC

Miss Daisy will soon be able to drive herself around a PC, because Microsoft has announced plans to build a senior-citizen friendly PC. Microsoft's US arm already sells the so-called “SeniorPC", which is an “HP computer that comes equipped with user-friendly software specifically geared to senior living”. It isn’t clear if …


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  1. Corrine

    Six weeks pay!?

    If the elderly on fixed income are usually making that little money, how on earth does Microsoft expect to sell this? I spent *one* weeks pay on the system I'm at, and could barely come up with the funds for that.

    To make things worse, I've seen what you Brits get charged for computers, and it'll probably be 10 weeks pay by the time that little economic travesty finishes tweaking the numbers.

  2. Steve Woods
    Gates Horns

    Patronising the elderly now MS?

    “HP computer that comes equipped with user-friendly software ...”.

    Would this be the return of Microsoft Bob by any chance?

    And will it have the grey screen of death?

    I think we should be told.

  3. Torben Mogensen

    Aren't they supposed to be simple?

    One would think that computers targeted specifically at senior citizens would be simple. I'm not implying that all senior citizens have difficulty using technology, but those that do don't need specially designed computers.

    So using Windows Vista seems like overkill and (worse) working against the simplicity goal. Senior citizens would need mainly a web browser, email, a simple text editor (HTML would be enough), photo viewing and, possibly, a few games. And they would need a large screen with large text and easily distinguishable icons (and wouldn't care about 3D icons or similar eye candy). And some alternative to a traditional mouse for input. A roller-mouse is probably O.K.

    So a simple OS (such as a cut-down Linux distribution) with software written with simple interfaces, few features and large text and icons and, most important, being stable enough that you don't need to deal with crashes, driver installation, viruses, etc.

    This would also keep the price down -- you don't need cutting-edge hardware for such a computer, and no expensive OS license either.

  4. Adam Clarkson
    Thumb Down

    Speed Grannies

    I think the real question here has to be: Why the hell is it so powerful?!

    M$ are shipping a machine which costs way too much for a pensioner to viably afford, which is way too powerful for what they would ever need. Why bother sticking a 3.2 in there? Make it slower, make it cheaper. Im pretty sure my gran wouldn't be playing UT3 here.

    As Corrine points out, us Brits always get ripped on price too, which will probably make it even more unfeasable. Are they not aware of how much senior citizens already complain about their lack of money!

    They need to sell a stable cheap PC otherwise our elderly are going to be intimidated, and it will be another M$ flop.

  5. The Other Steve


    (that's the windows dialog noise,btw)

    "Error 54, you've left the hob on, dear"


    "Click OK to continue"

  6. Darren Lovell

    Simple conversion rate from US dollar to UK pound

    The answer's easy, Corrine. To convert prices for goods from USD to GBP, just change $ to £ then add what you feel like for the "because you live in Britain" tax.

  7. alistair millington

    how shite is this

    ...Can't pay the heating bill now, not enough for that tipple of whiskey to pass the dull TV schedules... Don't worry at least you have a shiny new computer to remind you.

    And it can heat the room as well (power management not withstanding)... but remember having it on all the time to remind you to take the drugs will eat into your electricity bill... so you might want to turn it off...

    And as it's vista.

    ...Have you a grandchild who works in IT that can fix it when it breaks... NO, then 45 + VAT per hour will have a worker on your door step within a day... (Don't worry about the medication that it didn't remind you to take in the mean time, those pesky doctors won't mind the occasionally missed dose.) or better yet, a premium rate phone line to one of online workers.

    Phone line rental, that's right. As vista requires direct communication with M$ when it wants to remain legal, you will need to have broadband, so another payment increase you might have to consider. Sorry you can't afford it... Normal phone rental too much that broadband can't be taken as well... Don't worry, cut back on your shopping, you don't need those vitamins and healthy food at your age...

    M$ literally will try and shaft anyone for some cash.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HP Driving....

    My mum now has to run as an admin on her PC because HP's printer drivers are so crap (not to mention humongous) that they don't work properly for non-admin users.. (Producing cryptic C++ Runtime errors and such like.)

    So HP produce the hardware do they? Hope they haven't done any of the drivers...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean

    They will turn it on a 8am ready for when they need to use it at 9am and then wait until lunchtime before they all send there emails at once, just before a half of mild and a nap in the afternoon

  10. paul
    Gates Horns

    Promotional Offer

    Surely if Microsoft was MS rather than M$ - it would give 10K or so of these away to the poorest of the poor of old people.

    I believe money is what makes tjem tick - so I doubt they will be giving anything away and look to get all the dosh they can

  11. Andy Jones


    Will it smell of cabbage? I know Vista already stinks but will it be of the old-persons aroma?

    My coat is the one hanging on the Zimmer frame.

  12. Darren B

    Windows for Wrinklies 3.11?

    Just as easy to use as its namesake

    Anyone for an IDE Pill dispenser? Instead of a DVD drive?

    Saves having those boxes with all the pills for the week.

    Oooo and a Money stasher, so if the bogus PC Fixit man comes along he gets both a new 'puta and 20 grand in life savings.

    Of course like all grans with Mobiles, they get given them by the kids, but never turn them on. Can't seem much different here.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    some manage already

    My parents (74 & 80) seem to manage fine already without any special features from MS. In fact they've just bought *another* PC (to go with their existing PC + 2 laptops) and main feature that caused them to choose this was Dell had a "replace Vista with XP for no charge" offer and they decided to get it just in case MS went through with the "no XP after June" threat.

  14. adnim

    Patronising pensioners.

    Well I didn't expect the El Reg readership to submit to stereotyping, shame on you. OK I'm a good 20 years away from being a pensioner. Providing senility doesn't get a grip here's what I would wish to do with a PC in 20 years time. Create music with Cuebase and multiple VSTi's and play my guitar through Guitar Rig or whatever the tech is at the time. Play FPS games. Watch films, record TV, edit video, code, browse the net, write my memoirs, send email, build websites, hack the DHSS database and add a zero to my weekly allowance etc. etc. And overclock it.

    Not all pensioners are hunched over half blind, half deaf, senile, urine fragranced and slow witted. However I certainly wouldn't be buying a PC sponsored by m$, I would be building my own as I always have done. And finally I am hoping in 20 years time that m$ would have filed for chapter 11 ten years previous and any flavour of linux will happily run the software that I am currently tied to an m$ OS for, namely games, Cuebase and VSTi's.

  15. Chris Miller

    How much?

    £600 (and, of course, it will be a lot more after the 'magic' currency conversion) will buy you a pretty decent spec PC/screen/printer combo from pretty much any online retailer (even HP if you insist) or computer store and leave you well over £100 change. Since the only bundled software is MS Works + something to tell you when to take your medication, I can't see this selling particularly well.

    Oh, I forgot, there are also big button keyboard and trackball options for 'only' $135 and $71 respectively - bargain, eh!

  16. Anonymous John

    I retired nearly three years ago.

    And my ability to use computers hasn't declined in the slightest.

  17. Spleen

    Re: Corrine

    Despite Gordon Brown's best efforts while he was chancellor, some pensioners still have some money apart from what the government hands out.

    Anyway, this strikes me as a bit late. Before long most pensioners will have been forced to get to grips with computers during their working lives anyway - the number of people without any IT experience whatsoever is going to plummet. I'm also suspicious of the assumption that old people would like to use computers but don't because they're too complicated. My aunt doesn't have a computer because she doesn't want one, period.

    I'm sure this sounded like a very good idea to a 35-year-old marketing exec. "Take your pills" reminders, for god's sake.

  18. Pete

    Pensioner proof, my ***

    Have MS ever sat pensioners down at a Windows system and actually listened to their feedback? Some of the most astute comments I receive have been from pensioners I've helped, ranging from "Why do I have to single click on some things but double click on others?" and "Why are there so many different and confusing ways of doing the same thing?" to more practical matters like "Why does the computer tell me every time that it starts that my network cable is unplugged - what does that mean?" (no amount of disabling solves the problem).

    Before making PCs "pensioner-proof", perhaps MS should try making their operating system people-proof, in so far as making the use of Windows as intuitive and natural as possible. I usually end up having to write down a series of steps for common tasks for my pensioner friends, a thankless task that I wouldn't have to undertake if the interface actually worked on an intuitive and common-sense level.

    Grumble, grumble....

  19. Simon Ball


    We’re not patronising pensioners. If anything, it’s Microsoft that are.

    Firstly, what you, and people your age (or my age) would do with a computer when we reach pensionable age is irrelevant. We’ve been using computers most (if not all) of our lives, so it is perfectly natural to expect that we will continue to use them much the same way that we do now when we get old. It’s what current pensioners, some of whom have never used a computer before, are likely to want to do with one that mutters, and I can’t see a 70-year old suddenly starting to play Quake, much less overclocking.

    Secondly, while is perfectly true that not all pensioners fit the stereotype, anyone who isn’t half-blind/set-in-their-ways/technophobic doesn’t need a computer designed and marketed specially for them, and is therefore irrelevant to the discussion.

    The stereotype may not accurately describe all pensioners, but it does semi-accurately describe the target market.

  20. Simon B

    HP are an awful company

    HP are making them? run for cover! Customer lack of support, would rather buy a typewriter!

  21. Doug Glass

    Older Computers

    As a recent retiree, I'll be 62 in 23 days, I find the story presented here both insulting and comical.

    Insulting in that when I retired I left an enormous "computer guru" vacuum in my work group. The younger workers, 40-50 years old, were adequate users but not a polished, age-proven, power user like I was/am. No brag; just fact. Oh well.....

    I find it hilarious that Microsoft actually presumes to know anything about "old people". Most M$ personnel in the strategic decision making areas couldn't figure out how find their butts with both hands much less begin to understand me and my needs and wants. As an old geezer, I have built. upgraded and maintained computers and their networks for myself, wife, kids and grand children. You get the picture I'm sure.

    It's easy to tell M$, and generally all companies, have not addressed the looming retirement problems they are just beginning to have. I'm in the first wave of American "Baby Boomer" retirements and I and my contemporaries are on the verge of the greatest brain and resource drain the world has ever seen. Oh well..... As I learned in US Military service: FIGMO . "Frell 'em I Got My Orders". You are free to substitute your favorite "F" word, I chose the "Farscape" variety for "publish-ability".

    Life is good. I have XP and Ubuntu, a wife who is itching to travel, and all sorts of hobbies. I just may have to give up computers entirely. Too much really fun stuff to do and see as a [now] liberated old curmudgeon.

  22. Danny van der Weide

    Beefy speakers included...

    ...and altered default volume settings, ready to break the sound barrier.


    Auch, earpiercing offer, ain't it?

    Skull&bones, 'cause the end has never been so close.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Nice patronising attitude from another major corp. on the make.

    "Oldies will get some software allowing them to manage their medical prescriptions and simplified versions of existing applications, such as photo management packages.". I hope that is a joke, please!

    My old man is 67, loves playing with PCs, messing about with databases and spreadsheets, as he says, "Keeps me out of trouble and helps waste the day doing something useful.".

    For heavens sake, will this companies stop treating old people like babies, who can't do anything more technical than find the on switch for their kettle and TV!

  24. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge

    Linux for pensioners

    The PC would need to be cheap, so 2nd hand. Virus proof so Linux and hard to fiddle with so Linux again. It should not run MSN Live messenger but an IM chat compatible with MSN. It should be impossible for the grandchildren to install comet cursors and Limewire, so Linux again.

    It would need to handle all the Supermarket websites because pensioners love home delivery. Need good photo software as pensioners love taking pictures of the family. Simple email program with a good ISP to handle loads of attached photos. It would need a good printer, preferably a colour laser for prining all those retirement club news letters and mailshots. A really big screen so the text is nice and large.

    So an old P4 running Mepis with a 21" CRT screen being given away by the local graphic design company.

  25. John Widger
    Gates Horns

    A 'state' pensioners viewpoint

    First, I live on a state pension. this means my rent and 'community' tax is paid out of your taxes along with health,dental and optical care. As is usually the case of us oldies, I have no savings to fall back on. This general overview is typical of my generation but I'm not complaining because I now have all the time in the world to do the things I really want to do. (finances permitting).

    Second, my hobby, interest, past-time, obsession (delete as suits) is computers both inside and out. Basic economics dictate that I build my own computers. ATM a 3Gb machine hopefully soon to become a 3.2Gb dual core machine. Last year I installed Ubuntu because I couldn't keep up with Micro$hafts OS's so with the advent of 6 flavours of Vi$ta I decided enough was enough and thought I'd try Gnu/Linux. What a wake-up call that was. I still have problems with the learning curve but I'm happy with that, (gotta chase the braincells around now and again even if there is only two of them left). I only know two people, both almost half my age, who know as much or more than I do and they're both M$ orientated, in fact it is their field of work, so help can be a bit limited there.

    Back to the point. The idea of a 7th? version of Vi$ta makes me cringe, especially as the cost will be way out of my income bracket, besides I don't want a sawn off version of an OS. I want the real thing. ATM I dual boot with M$ XP Pro and Ubuntu ver:8.04. I've managed to find all the programs I need in open source with the exception of games so I keep XP. I could waffle on but I must shuffle along. I still need to worry about the obscene necessities of life, you know, like food, clothes etc. Anyway I'm determined to beat that snail to the corner of the road this time as I've now got 'go faster' stipes on my walking frame. Tata for now.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Giving Vista the keys to the medicine cabinet?

    Are they mad? I have Vista set up to record Doctor Who on a Saturday. Sometimes it does it. Sometimes it decides to completely ignore it, and other times it goes completely berserk and records it about six times.

    Anybody else seeing a problem with trusting it to tell you when to take your medication?

  27. Tim99 Silver badge
    Gates Horns

    Re: Does this mean

    Nice one Stu. We pensioners might get a little tired in the afternoon because some of our brains have degraded from having to invent a lot of this computing stuff.

    I can only sleep on a few afternoons, as I spend the rest of them teaching other retired people computing. No, I do not recommend anything from Microsoft.

    Fortunately, I don't need to remember to turn on our home computers so that they are ready for use. Two of them are energy efficient Debian servers (<10 watts), and are on all of the time. The other two can be easily awoken from OS X's 'Sleep' mode.

    As an aside, most of us oldies know the difference between "their" and "there".

  28. fluffy

    Blue screens for the bluehairs?


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