Microsoft Testing FlexGo Pay-As-You-Go PCs

At its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference 2006 (WinHEC) gathering today, Microsoft announced FlexGo, a program aimed to lower financial barriers to owning a PC in emerging markets by letting users pay for use of the machine over time, either through subscription plans or pre-paid cards.

“Today there are already more than 1 billion prepaid mobile phones used around the world, so we know FlexGo enables a familiar and comfortable pay-as-you-go model that works for people with variable or unpredictable income,” said Will Poole, senior vice president of the Market Expansion Group at Microsoft. “Offering unprecedented flexibility of PC ownership will bring high-quality personal computers within the reach of hundreds of millions of families and small businesses in emerging markets so they too can enjoy the many benefits PCs bring in education, entertainment, communication and productivity.”

The basic idea behind FlexGo is that customers instead of paying full price for a computer and taking it back to their home or business, customers pay about half the price of the system, the purchase subscriptions or pre-paid cards to get hourly access to the computer. If the subscription lapses or the user runs out of pre-paid hours, the computer shifts toward a “reserve tank” offering limited functionality and access until the user buys more hours. Purchased hours count toward ownership: after the user buys a pre-determined number of hours, they own the PC in full. FlexGo requires the computers have at least occasional access to the Internet.

Microsoft says it is working with computer-maker Lenovo and others to implement FlexGo systems, and is launching a second FlexGo trial in Brazil today. In the next three months, Microsoft plans to introduce FlexGo trials in Russia, Mexico, China, and India. Initially, the program plans to offer mid-range computers running the home edition of Windows XP, but Microsoft may expand the program to the Starter Edition of its forthcoming Windows Vista, and says it is working with telecommunications and media operators to provide higher-end systems and Media Center editions to customers on a subscription basis.

Microsoft is touting FlexGo as a democratizing force, putting information technology into the hands of people to whom it would otherwise be out of reach. However, it may be worth noting that, over time, Microsoft makes the same amount of money on a FlexGo system as a traditional PC sale, and, depending on interest rates, finance charges, and other terms, consumers may wind up paying considerably more for a FlexGo system over time than they would if they bought the PCs outright, creating a new revenue channel for Microsoft and computer vendors in a new, lower-income market segment.

Computing

T-Mobile goes after big cable companies, pilots wireless home internet service

In a shot at big cable companies, T-Mobile is launching a new pilot program to bring an unlimited wireless LTE home internet service to up to 50,000 homes across the United States by the end of 2019.
Movies & TV

No TV? No problem. Here's how to watch the Final Four online

Whether you want to watch the Big Dance on your phone or on your smart TV, we have the lowdown on all the ways to watch March Madness you can handle. Grab your foam finger and some nachos.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

Though there are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or operating system.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Computing

Nvidia’s GTX 1650 graphics card could be just a slight upgrade over the 1050 Ti

Rumors suggest Nvidia might soon launch the GTX 1650, and a leaked benchmark listing from Final Fantasy XV suggests that the new graphics card could be just a slight upgrade over last generation's GTX 1050 Ti. 
Computing

Get ready to say goodbye to some IFTTT support in Gmail by March 31

If This Then That, the popular automation service, will drop some of its support for Gmail by March 31. The decision comes as a response to security concerns and is aimed to protect user data.
Computing

Nvidia faces attacks from AMD, Intel, and even Google. Should it be worried?

Nvidia announced an expanded array of RTX server solutions designed to leverage the power of ray-tracing at GTC 2019. The effort will help Nvidia take on Google's Stadia in game streaming with GeForce Now, and the company's investments in…
Computing

Get the new Dell XPS 13 for $750 with this limited-time deal

Dell is currently running a limited time deal lasting through Thursday, March 28, where you can bring home a version of this year's new XPS 13 for around $750 with the use of a special coupon code. 
Mobile

This is the easiest way to save your iPhone data to your computer

Living in fear of losing your contacts, photos, messages, and notes on your iPhone? Fear no more -- in this guide, we'll break down exactly how to back up your iPhone to your computer using Apple's iTunes or to the cloud with iCloud.
Mobile

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.
Computing

Microsoft’s Clippy came back from the dead, but didn’t last very long

Before Cortana, Alexa, and Siri even existed, Microsoft Clippy dominated the screens of computers in the 1990s to help assist Microsoft Office users when writing letters. He recently made a bit of a comeback only to die off again.
Computing

How 5G networks will make low-latency game streaming a reality

Faster speeds and more bandwidth are some of the many promises that 5G can deliver, but for gamers, the most important thing is low latency. To achieve low latency, carriers like AT&T and Verizon are exploring hybrid models for game…
Deals

Time to do taxes? Save up to 50 percent on H&R Block tax software this weekend

Tax season is stressful, and with new tax laws in effect this year, it's not a bad idea to get some help. H&R Block has you covered: For two days only, you can save 50 percent on its great software so you can file your taxes online and save…
Computing

Stop dragging windows on your Mac. Here's how to use Split View to multitask

The latest iterations of MacOS offer a native Split View feature that can automatically divide screen space between two applications. Here's how to use Split View on a Mac, adjust it as needed, and how it can help out.