Microsoft brings Net café experience to homes

PC owners in emerging markets such as China and India, will soon be able to pay only when they use their machines.

Customers in developing markets such as China, India and Vietnam, will soon be able to have their own personal computers and pay only for it when they use the machines.

A new Microsoft pay-as-you-go initiative lets customers buy Windows-based PCs at a low cost, and pay for their computing use via prepaid cards, according to a statement on Microsoft's Web site.

The program is driven by a new technology called FlexGo, which monitors and records usage time of a system, software or even service.

When the value of a prepaid card runs low, the PC will move into a "reserve tank" or limited-access mode and customers can purchase additional usage time online or from a local vendor. They can also gain full ownership of the machines after they have purchased a certain number of usage hours.

"Today there are already more than 1 billion prepaid mobile phones used around the world, so we know FlexGo enables a familiar and comfortable pay-as-you-go model that works for people with variable or unpredictable income," said Will Poole, Microsoft's senior vice president of the market expansion group, in a statement. By offering flexibility, he added, more families and small businesses will have the opportunity to own PCs.

According to the statement, Microsoft recently completed a successful year-long market trial in Brazil, where a second trial is due to commence this week. Similar trials would be extended to China, Hungary, India, Mexico, Russia, Slovenia and Vietnam in the next few months.

Advance Micro Devices (AMD), one of Microsoft's partners in the program, said in a separate statement that it will design and develop processors specifically for FlexGo.

William T. Edwards, chief innovation officer and senior vice president at AMD, noted that the new program "will greatly accelerate AMD's 50x15 Initiative", which aims to connect 50 percent of the world’s population to the Internet by the year 2015.

Infineon Technologies also announced that it will develop security chips that complement Microsoft's FlexGo. The company said Tuesday it expects systems containing Infineon components to be available in the second quarter of 2007.