FlexGo : Microsoft's decoy against the OLPC

Hot on the wheels of Gordon's Brown clamp down on the Home Computer Initiative, Microsoft has just announced that it is pitching a 'new' concept in computing; Pay as you go.

Of course, PAYG is not something that Microsoft invented; leasing, a popular form of financing is indeed PAYG-based, as are mobile phone contracts, mortgages and quite a few loans.

Dubbed FlexGo, Microsoft's new approach to ownership sees the Redmond giant tackle one of the last areas of opportunities left untouched: computers. Back in 2000, at the height of the Internet Bubble frenzy, free computer offers (buy a three year internet package and get a free computer) were common. Free-PC was one of those but it proved to be too difficult to maintain.

Microsoft however is not offering anything free, instead, the user will finance the computer purchase by paying a fee on a regular basis. Microsoft is already in advanced talks with Transmeta (remember Crusoe?), AMD and Intel to produce a Flexgo windows-based CPU that would be able to control access of users. If the user fails to pay the fee, the computer shuts down.

Obviously, if the FlexGo scheme gets hacked, there's little that Microsoft will be able to do and I guess that Microsoft already knows about it. Some say that Microsoft probably came forward with that idea to gatecrash the OLPC project (One Laptop Per Child) momentum. After all, nothing would prevent the Massachusetts Institute of Technology coming up with a similar yet cheaper scheme and launch it not only in emerging markets, but in all markets.

It would be good if OLPC could launch a charity version where each OLPC purchased in the rich countries subsidises the cost of another OLPC in a poor country.