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 …


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  1. andy
    Thumb Up

    Sounds like a great idea...

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

  2. Anonymous Scotsman

    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.

  3. Andy Barber


    Isn't this what Linux was designed to prevent?

  4. Chris Simmons
    Thumb Down


    they can bite my shiny metal ass.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    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

  6. raving angry loony


    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.

  7. Richard

    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.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  9. Rob Beard

    £0 per hour (excluding electricity cost of course)


    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.


  10. Lukin Brewer

    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...

  11. Anonymous Coward


    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

  12. BioTube

    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".

  13. /dev/me
    Thumb Up

    I poropse we call this:

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

  14. Scott Broukell
    Thumb Down

    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).

  15. Ray Simard
    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?

  16. Neil Greatorex

    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 :-)

  17. Jodo Kast

    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...

  18. Stephen Bungay

    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.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    It was our idea first!!


    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!


  20. Hollerith

    Yes, yes, oh yes

    Who wouldn't want to pay for this?

  21. Mr B

    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.

  22. Simon Painter
    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).

  23. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    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...

  24. Zygote
    Gates Horns


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

  25. Anonymous Coward

    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?

  26. MarkMac

    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.

  27. Jonathan McColl

    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.]

  28. scotchbonnet
    Thumb Down

    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.

  29. James

    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.

  30. Simon Westerby
    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

  31. Anonymous Coward

    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).

  32. Graham Lockley

    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 :)

  33. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Please insert your credit card...

    ... before pressing the Power Button...

  34. Martin
    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'...).

  35. Anonymous Coward
    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!

  36. Ron Christian

    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.

  37. Anonymous Coward

    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.

  38. David Kairns


    ...I agree.

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

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    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!! $$$$$$$$

  40. Dillon Pyron
    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?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "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

  42. Allan Dyer

    @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?

  43. Nursing A Semi
    Thumb Down

    @ 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.

  44. Martin Usher

    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.

  45. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    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....

  46. Steven


    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.

  47. John Angelico

    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.

  48. Gulfie

    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?

  49. michael

    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

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    They're kidding

    All it needs is for the power hungry users to buy their boxes outright, as they do now, and that will saddle Microshaft with the $0.08 cents per hour brigade and the whole thing will tumble around their ears.

    One person who browses an hour for, say, 200 evenings a year, would ramp up a charge of $160. With hardware lasting three years on average, that's $480 - more than enough for an EeePC and some bells and whistles, or a Lime PC and saving the environment at the same time. Personally, even at low consumption for browsing and e-mails, my own usage would come out at more than $600 a year if I restricted my usage to when I was actually sat in front of it.

    I was supporting one version of Excel which gave different results for no service pack, SP1 and SP2 (in the late 90's) This explains why ... Microsofts mathematicians obviously can't do maths. Either that or they think that no one else can.

    With this mode, I'd hate to see what they'd charge to use the Xbox 360!!!

  52. Dazed and Confused

    Not sure how they can patent this

    There is rather a lot of prior art in the pay per use world

  53. Saul Dobney

    The context makes this interesting

    Patents appear and disappear without making it to a product, but still this has to be placed in the context of Microsoft reinventing itself as a rental company delivering OS and software and services to multiple devices in the home and office (and not just the normal 3 box PC) eg with Azure. As the netbooks show, an Microsoft OS is on is the major component cost in a low-cost PC. This is unsustainable for the manufacturers or for Microsoft itself. And with multiple devices sharing resources you need a different sales and delivery model. Splitting up the OS allows M$ to move to a light and cheap base OS. And secondly offering it via rental means a mobile phone model of low cost upfront fees and long term revenues. After that it's simply a question of price - say £100 a year for full MS or zero for unfamiliar Linux? Which do you choose.

  54. Anonymous Coward

    I thought that it is already in use?

    If I recall correctly, it was suppose to be in use in South America (or was it Asia?), you do NOT buy the hardware, instead you topup your computer before you use it, until you reach the price of the computer (and software) at which point the computer will unlock itself.

    Any way, if we ignore open source for a moment and look at this from a different angle. You will not need to buy office/cad/other software with a single up front payment before you can use it (unless you pirate it). Instead you have the program installed for you free of charge and whenever you need to use it you will only pay for the amount of time you use it for. This will be a lot cheaper then buying it (and buying the upgrade) especially for home users who will need the software to do a simple task _once_ in a while. This should be a better solution for home users then piracy, plus (hopefully) the software will always be upto date (and no activation required).

    as for the hardware, if you have money to buy the machine then there is nothing stopping you. If not then this is a good alternative. No point buying a US$ 600 machine just the check your email (if you get any). Besides, if you can replace the machine with a newer one whenever they come out then that would even be better.

    now, should we ask Microsoft about their thoughts on the environment and what will happen to all those machines that get replaced?

  55. Gilbert Wham

    @ Michelle Knight

    You may have something there. This idea makes FAR more sense if applied to consoles. 90% of console owners aren't going to go twiddling with the hardware, and if they have to pay extra to use the extra power in their machine to play that spiffy new FPS everyone's raving about, they'll pony straight up...

  56. Herby

    So this is why...

    ...they put all that extra DRM junk in Vista.

    Seems only logical. I mean doesn't Microsoft want all users to pay them. Doesn't it own all the PC's already. It seems that only the government does such a thing like with property taxes. Oh, they almost provide a "service", which I doubt Microsoft does.

    Then again, I run something else on my PC, which is an older discarded one.

    P.S. Microsoft/Patent office: Look at prior art. It is there

  57. alphaxion

    this sounds familiar

    This is sounding very much like the concept for the Trusted Computing platform. A system that you can't do anything with until you pay to enable it.

    I thought we said get stuffed to this notion years ago?

  58. Claire Rand

    cost v benefit

    this is actually not such a bad idea, but not at the prices they are indicating. if 'reasonable' usage of said machine comes to say around £400 for maybe two years its worth it vs a £400 machine, *if* this allows you to run any programme you need (paying for when you use it).

    the cost v benefit calc needs to include the assumption people will duel boot, so basically they are getting the machine for free and paying for the applications.

    i.e. a decent machine (probably several levels, cheap, average and 'gaming') you can download to any additional drive space you include, and using that space is *not* limited. but the core drive is a EEPROM or something designed to run a fixed version of windows that can see applications drives hosted elsewhere. then pay per view, sorry hour works. you have access to *every* program MS makes as and when you need it, if you want to seriously use it.. buy it outright and install to a local drive.

    it could actually work, and work well. a basic machine with only ram based storage & the chip with the OS for people ehom thats enough for (e.g. browsing, though that would have to be less than 80p per hour, possibly a flat rental that includes web browsing, all as part of the ISP contract, email etc - they can finally tie most people to MSIE & outlook...) the extras are pay as you go.

    the gaming machine allows you to play pretty much any game thats on the network, with again maybe a monthly charge for settings storage etc.

    it needs to be low enough cost people can't be bothered to seriously crack it.

    machines are getting to the point they are cheap enough to make this work.

    they key *needs* to be allowing the end user to upgrade the machine with a hard drive & dvd player (the base would need neither) and use them if they want. but otherwise its a nice small box with a few USB ports & a network connection to a router. end user supplies a HD telly or monitor of thier choice.

    so the box is pretty basic, and presumably reasonably cheap even with a semi decent graphics & sound chip and enough ram to make it usable. gaming rig gets a bit more.

    the only thing that will kill it are the ISPs throttling it into the ground and probably the software servie providers screwing every last penny from crap.

    but make it reasonably open and its there, even if it only connects to the MS "store" and they manage all programs you can run remotely (the link provided by the chip) its usable.

    of course people can download and install their own stores but most won't

    it works more or less on the iphone after all.

    it won't happen, MS will overcharge, the ISPs will overcharge and the decet software & games needed won't be possible either.

    almost a pity.

  59. Steve Liddle

    April Fool ?

    Maybe not, but anything is possible from Microsoft, guess if the PC was free to take from the shop and the only charge was to use it, then it might not be that bad,

    but most games need a high end system and who wants to pay out for the pc and then pay to use it ?

  60. Dave

    @Simon Painter

    Wow! did you get anything right in that post?

    Well, one bit I suppose: this has no real chance until Moore's Law (in terms of overall performance) does stop. And there is no real sign of that at the moment - raw clock speed may not be advancing as fast as it used to, but it is being replaced by growth in parrallelism. A company with massive cash reserves could then afford to try this, but at the moment you can get a laptop 'For Free' from the mobile phone companies, so why would you want to rent one? Get half of todays performance now, and get it all if you pay full whack tomorrow. Makes more sense to wait a month or two, and get double the performance (from Apple or Linux) at a lesser price, since all the charging mechanisms are going to add a premium on.

    As for prior art, when did MS ever care about that?

  61. Anonymous Coward

    It is unenforceable

    How on earth are they going to track its use? All someone needs to do is emulate the Microsoft billing server and the PC will think it's reporting its clock cycles legitimately. It will be one of the most hacked systems of all history.

    Honestly - Microsoft's chase for money will only hasten peoples switch to Linux. The only saviour in their camp is the vendors. if you really want a system to do all the little bits and pieces infrequently, then the Lime PC will suit you down to the ground. Great little unit (says the CherryPal Brand Angel who still hasn't had a CP unit to evaluate yet.)

    To be perfectly honest, the only reason I have "one" Microsoft PC at home is because the vendors are still not supporting Linux. Samsung's latest and greatest mobile phone (i8510 - or it was the latest and greatest three minutes ago) only supports Windows - not even Mac. Excuse me but wasn't Symbian supposed to be open? Palm don't support Linux (or at least my T3 doesn't) I can't get a commercial 3G USB stick that comes with Linux support ... at some point soon I'm going to give the middle finger to the lot of them.

    No linux support? Sorry. No sale.

  62. William Bronze badge

    50p meter on the side?

    Will they be 'selling' these at Crazy Georges? Maybe from Littlewoods catalogues. Maybe I will see people in the lottery queue buying a top up for little johnnies computer, along with a £5 vodafone topup, 40 lambert and butler, £3 on gas and a fiver on elecy and the remainder of the child benefit on scratch cards.

  63. Neil Greatorex

    @ Nursing A Semi

    "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."

    Nope, I don't let it out onto that new-fangled interweb on its own. I have a hardware firewall & a well maintained hosts, so know "exactly" what traffic leaves the PC, which is only used for a spot of gaming anyway, I have Ubuntu for that interweb stuff :-) On another note, has anyone seen the sheer mountain of crap that a Fista PC spews out when it's booting? Do a packet capture & frighten yourselves :-)

    "Vista should boot in less than a minute on any mid level PC"

    Try that on a corporate network, your "less than a minute" becomes 15 full minutes before you can actually do anything. I still want a refund.

  64. Stephen

    it will never work like that...

    ignoring the fact that users will be paying for something they already physically have...

    compare 80 cents per hour of browsing to 10 cents for a single text message via AT&T.

    no one actually pays that unless they underestimate their usage for the month.

    they would sell packages for roughly $20/month unlimited browsing, $40/month for unlimited Office, $80/month for unlimited gaming... add in the "new every 2(or 3)" that attracts most people to free phones and leasing cars, and the majority will see it as a deal.

  65. Doug Glass

    Suicide By PC

    So now we'll have pirated hardware as well as pirated software. I can just see it now, ............

    Sorry, got to cut this short, I have to put a coin in the toilet.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it depends how its implemented

    look at leasing cars.

    works for some, not for others. If you lease you are constrained in what you can do with it (no resprays or general pimping) but you know what it will cost you But you never own it.

    You buy a car you own it and can do whatever yo want with it (within the law). Respray? bugger stereo? big fuck off spoiler and 24" rims? be my guest. But if the service needs £300 worth of repairs then you £300 lighter.

    This will be all about renting an appliance, not really about buying a PC then renting the software per use afterwards.

    Most of us reading el Reg will not subscribe to this idea, even if we don't hate Microsoft, sorry Mickey$haft, so much that it turns our vision red because we want control and teh ability to do what we want to our PCs.

    many people aren't that arsed though, they will look at their usage see they browse the web for 2 hours a day, play world of warcraft for 5 hours a day and wank to pictures of teh hotness of teh day for 90 seconds or so.. They will run this through the MS lease calculator (leasulator) and get a figure.. They will then compare that with the cost of buying the stuff outright and make their mind up based on whichever is cheapest.

    Remember people, on El Reg computing may be a matter of life, death and Holy Jihad, but to the vast majority of people in the world its just a fucking tool*.

    Insert your own jokes here.

  67. Robert E A Harvey
    Gates Horns

    Stupid stupid

    I can't see why the patent people didn't show them the door straight away.

    This is an idea so old, and tried so many times, that it is absurd to consider patenting it. M$ should be fined for wasting government time

  68. Anonymous Coward

    No Way!!!

    Yet another hair brained idea comes from MS. Reading through all the comments I suspect that no one is very keen to pay as you go! and neither am I.

    Dare I suggest that MS might want to ask themselves Why is Vista so unpopular with the great majority of users, well one reason might be that its way too bloated and as a result very sluggish and slow! I guess change is inevitable these days and that's OK provided it offers better performance than previous OS versions, but in Vista's case compared to XP the reverse appears to be true, And what idiot decided to change a perfectly good name for ADD & REMOVE PROGRAMS in XP to PROGRAM FEATURES in Vista? Also I noticed that many software tools in Vista have been relocated making us waste time in trying to find the new locations and what s really annoying! in most cases the programs are the same old SH-ONE-T as before! All they've done is moved things about for the sake of change so it looks new and thus confuses the hell out of everyone.

    Were told by MS that they are only going to support XP for 4 more months! After all these years of Updates and security patches they have actually got it working reasonably well and now they want to dump it and leave us with Vista which is a real Dinosaur of a program that no one seems to like or want! Hmmmmm !!!

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Pay as you go concept was used by the Cache Object Relational database. The pricing structure was based on how many hits the database had by users.

    Can Microsoft really patent something that's already been used by someone else first?

    At the end of the day, this is bollox, why would Microsoft move away from their current pricing model? It has one effect on the income for Microsoft, either the income goes up or it goes down, and I bet it sure 'aint the latter!

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Vista complainers

    "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."

    Odd this my laptop with 1 GB of ram seems to boot ok leaving lots left, sure it takes more than xp , but xp took more than 2000 which took more than ME which took more than 98 ...(i'm sure you see where this is going.

    I'm guessing most vista complainers buy it from a shop preinstalled and forget that the shit that get installed by retailers is not part of vista!

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    When was the last time that Microsoft had an idea (an IDEA, not an implementation) that wasn't total f*cking sh*te? They're the Sepp Blatter of computing... one can only hope that they fail and we can get computing back to something approaching creativity.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    how o how can people even think of patenting a business process. Stupid country. Most service industries already implement a "pay as you go" billing, phone bills and utilities spring to mind. And pay by the hour is little different to paying monthly for something.

    Daft, and people want us to adopt a more UScentric patent system, may aswell start smoking crack and slapping hoes now, probably more productive then trying to earn an honest £ unless you're a fat cat.

    Bleh, the new year cheer is already gone.

  73. Christian Berger

    Impact on productivity

    I mean office software, in general, never has been a pinnacle of productivity, but now Microsoft actually has a motive to make it even slower to use. Now every additional click the user has to preform to do a given task translates to thousands of Euros of additional income. Re-introduce Clippy and you are rich. The more time your users will have to waste using your product, the more money you will get.

    I can already see interface design toolkits which automatically calculate the revenue, based on typical user behaviour.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Corporate/Government conspiracy...

    This is, obviously, a corporate/governmental conspiracy to more tightly control or simply end home computing. No more exchange of information amongst the rabble, without full GovernCorp knowledge of all that is transpiring.

    I would have used the joke icon but, unfortunately, it's not funny.

    I would have used the picking up the coat icon but, unfortunately, there's no where to go.

    It'll be interesting to see how this ends up.

    So, the black helicopter.

  75. P. Lee

    patent grabbing?

    I'm not convinced that this is a serious consideration - looks more like someone filling their patent quota for the month.

    Still MS must have a little Mac envy. Vista take-up has bombed, Apple gets a new cash infusion every time someone upgrades their hardware but an XP license is forever.

  76. This post has been deleted by its author

  77. Rex Alfie Lee

    Reason Enough To Dump M$

    Just the idea of screwing the public even more for their (so-called) wonderful OS & hardware displays in full the ardour of the M$ abuse of their customers. I don't think abuse is the wrong word here, I think it portrays a typical monopoliser's attitude towards "those that need us".

    What M$ hasn't really got control of is the world of open-source. They don't get it & so they will fail. What is meant here is that the world (the worm) will turn & leave M$ wasting in the pits of its own derision as they laugh at a system that has already surpassed their own. Linux has many features that leaves M$'s sucky OS wanting. The desktop experience for one is a long way ahead of Windoze & Apple for that matter. Who's going to pay for that experience when they can get it for nothing? Eighty cents an hour for browsing the Internet is more than it costs for broadband now. Why would anyone want to buy a system that is going to charge them for doing what they do now for more than they pay now when everyone wants cheaper Internet? Pay less for the same game ported to Linux but doesn't cost per hour because it belongs to you. You use it as much as you like for the original purchase.

    Of course it doesn't matter one iota if M$ goes bankrupt. I couldn't care less. May they die a slow & painful death.

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