Pay as you go computing: A viable way forward?

Summary:Both Windows and Office are now open for "rental". But broaden this out: would pay as you go computing be a cheaper, more viable option for students? Article

Microsoft has allowed the renting of Windows and Office, allowing users to pay for these highly popular technologies for a flat fee per year. This would greatly benefit low income but high piracy areas, but could in theory extend to students who only need Windows and Office for two or three years of their degree programme.

If this were to widen further to not only operating systems and software, but to computers, laptops or netbooks and other portable technologies, could this be a future trendsetter?

There are up sides and down sides to this. Neither one is right nor wrong, and depending on personal circumstance to licensing restrictions, it may or may not work. Nevertheless, it's a business model that could be exploited - and which Microsoft is doing so with its patent installed - and others could easily follow suit.

It could be cheaper overall (...or not)

If you know how long you will be renting a computer, say two or three years for a degree programme, it could well be cheaper to annually renew your licence for an operating system and the rest of it. Depending on time of course, it could work in your favour.

Then again, the main cost imposed for students is the hardware itself. As a student you will benefit from all kinds of offers and price reductions because you're automatically assumed to be impoverished and living off nothing but baked beans and a cold cut of bacon.

That is all good and well - only if you decide upon a Windows machine. For Apple users, the operating system ties in with the hardware and you'll still pay through your teeth for it, even with their offers available.

And of course, if you are using open-source software then you only have to pay for the hardware; massively cutting down the price you would have spent overall.

Limited in hardware due to software requirements

Again with the Mac vs. Windows debate, if you are a die-hard Mac user you may not be able to use the operating system that you are used to as the two come as a pair. Also, depending on the type of operating system and version available on rental license - such as a 32-bit edition of Windows XP - this may limit you to a non 64-bit computer even if you need one.

Manufacturers aren't going to build machines where the hardware outweighs the software.

The cloud and not being tied down

Microsoft has hit the cloud like a storm, although now they are charging for it. Amazon is one of the main competitors with its A3 service, and Google is brewing something as Apple completes the final stages of its iDatacenter build. Cloud computing is going mental - but in a good way.

With rental computers, there's a good chance this cloud business could take off a storm, and storing files in the cloud instead of on the local device means you won't be tied down to one computer. It also means big bucks for the industry and the transferability between devices when one inevitably breaks.

Would pay as you go computing take off? Could you use it as a cheaper, more viable option, or is it dead in the water and doomed to fail? The comment monster wants feeding.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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