Microsoft Metes Out Computing

Company lets users pay to play (or work) with its flexgo program.

Seattle—All of the attention at WinHEC was focused on the launch of the Beta 2 versions of three Microsoft platforms: Windows Vista, Longhorn Server and Office 2007. But the triad of betas wasnt the only thing Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates highlighted during his keynote. He also introduced Microsoft FlexGo, a pay-as-you-go computing program designed for users in developing nations who cant afford PCs on traditional terms.

FlexGo works on the same concept as a prepaid telephone calling card: Users acquire a midrange computer with an initial down payment and then buy time on the computer with prepaid cards. If time is not added, the PC goes into a limited-access state. After a certain amount of use, the computer belongs to the user.

Microsoft recently launched full-fledged FlexGo trials in Brazil and plans to add trials in India, China, Russia and Mexico during the next month.

It remains to be seen whether this concept will appeal to users and organizations in the United States and other developed nations. The metered usage model held promise at least for Kevin Wilson, an eWEEK Corporate Partner and product line manager of desktop hardware at Duke Energy in Charlotte, N.C. Wilson said the FlexGo model would work well in his organization.

In an enterprise, he said at WinHEC, an IT manager will often lease the same type of computer for an end user that he or she leases for use within, say, conference rooms. So, a computer used for at least 40 hours a week is being leased for the same price as a computer used for 5 hours. Something like FlexGo, said Wilson, might help IT managers more reasonably deploy PC resources.

Less expensive computer use within corporations may not be the goal of FlexGo, but it is the goal of IT managers everywhere.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

WWWeb Resources

Pay to play?

Will users be willing to pay as they go? Microsoft Watchs Mary Jo Foley reports. article2/0,2180,1965511,00.asp

Beta bonanza

Labs reviews of the new Windows Vista, Longhorn Server and Office 2007 betas 0,1895,1966277,00.asp

WinHEC kickoff

The text of Bill Gates keynote billgates/speeches/2006/05-23WinHEC.asp