Fancy a 'free' PC with your bank account?

Fujitsu and BT offer a cheap, but not free, PC with a telephone deal. Future deals could throw such hardware in with a new bank account.

Free PCs with your bank account will be the next get-on-the-Net marketing ploy according to Fujitsu, which has just announced yet another free-ish PC deal with British Telecom.

Fujitsu and BT announced Tuesday a rent-a-PC Internet package that will give users a Fujitsu PC, Net access via BT Internet and free weekend calls, for a monthly charge of £25.99. Fujitsu managing director Bryan Taylor believes deals between PC manufacturers and service providers will become commonplace.

In a refreshing admission, Taylor is the first to allow that the package is no freebie. "This ain't a free PC. It's a good price and customers pay for it monthly. No more, no less," he said. However the model for selling PCs is changing dramatically as more and more business is done online, and Taylor predicts similar offers with banks and building societies. "Free PCs, or as close to it as you can get, will come as companies like banks, insurers and building societies realise they need that product to get users to end services," he said.

Far from being a gifted seer, Taylor confirmed Fujitsu is talking to a number of banks about such a deal, but refused to give details.

A number of PC manufacturers are beginning to dip their toes into the "nearly free PC" market, most notably Tiny, which cancelled its offer within a month citing a lack of interest. Taylor is convinced the Fujitsu offer will not go the same way. "There are a couple of differences between what we are doing and what Tiny did. Tiny's business was making PCs and selling them whereas BT is an Internet and infrastructure provider."

Initially Fujitsu is offering an Intel Celeron 400 MHz PC with 64Mb RAM and a 15-inch colour monitor. Taylor reckons 50,000 will be sold before Christmas and, if consumers like the deal, Fujitsu will offer higher-specification machines and possibly a Net-ready notebook.