Intel to Pilot Chip Upgrade Program

Intel's idea is to sell a $50 card that would enable a user to ramp up the speed and memory capacity of their PCs. However, not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

Intel officials are looking to pilot a program designed to let desktop PC users boost the power of their processors for a $50 fee.

The program, in which the user would have to buy a card that includes a security key that can be used over the Internet to unlock certain features, is getting battered by critics who say it is nothing more than an attempt by Intel to squeeze more money out of end users.

However, Intel officials said the idea behind the program is to give PC users greater choice and flexibility in the systems they buy, allowing them to upgrade their PCs easily and without having to hire a professional to do it.

The program at first will pertain only to systems running Intel's G6951 chip, part of the company's Pentium family. The upgrade, which would make the PC run faster and run workloads more efficiently, reportedly would unlock the chip's Hyper-Threading technology as well as bump up its cache memory capacity.

The process is described in Intel's help page for the service. Essentially, through the service, users run a 4MB installer program, enter the security key when asked and restart their computer, according to the site.

The dual-core 2.8GHz G6951 is not yet available to buy, but is due out soon in such systems as the Gateway SX2841-09e desktop machine, which reportedly will be available via Best Buy.

Website Engadget reported that it had found and photographed some of the Intel upgrade cards at a Best Buy.

Cory Doctorow, a blogger on the Boing Boing Website, slammed the program for putting customers in the role of licensing-not owning-a system.

"[I]t's an idea that is fundamentally anti-private-property," Doctorow wrote Sept. 19. "Under the -If value, then right' theory, you don't own anything you buy. You are a mere licensor, entitled to extract only the value that your vendor has deigned to provide you with. The matchbook is to light birthday candles, not to fix a wobbly table. The toilet roll is to hold the paper, not to use in a craft project. -If value, then right' is a business model that relies on all the innovation taking place in large corporate labs, with none of it happening at the lab in your kitchen, or in your skull. It's a business model that says only companies can have the absolute right of property, and the rest of us are mere tenants."

That idea most definitely doesn't fit in computing, he said, and Intel has benefited from that. It wasn't until third-party innovation in the form of software, peripherals and networks were developed that Intel processors became valuable.

Doctorow also questioned whether Intel would try to sue a person who can figure out how to unlock their chips without paying the company.

Intel spokesman George Alfs told the BBC that the program is designed to offer users greater flexibility and choice.

"The pilot in a limited number of retail stores will center on one Pentium processor, one of our value brands, and will enable a consumer to upgrade the performance of their PC online," Alfs told BBC News. "This saves the user from buying a new system or taking it in for a physical upgrade."