USATODAY has a column by Kevin Many on Microsoft’s FlexGo initiative:
Microsoft announced a “pay as you go” computing model aimed at emerging markets. The press release says it “allows customers to have a fully featured PC at home by paying only for the time as they use it through the purchase of prepaid activation cards or tokens.”
It works a lot like prepaid cell phones. A customer takes home a Windows XP-based machine and buys time on a prepaid card that has an activation code. Type in the code and a little timer pops up in the screen’s corner, showing time left. To get more time, buy more cards, or buy time online. After paying for a certain amount of time, the customer would own the machine outright.
It’s also yet another sign that the big computer companies believe their growth opportunities are in the next billion computer users — people who so far have not been able to afford computers or Internet connections. The current computer market is basically saturated, and it’s getting harder to excite customers to buy new, more powerful machines because — for most people — their old machines are by far powerful enough.