Why You'll Rent Your Next Computer

Written by Jesse Berst, Contributor
Attention computer shoppers.

Go home.

I've got news that you won't hear at your local computer store: Renting your hardware might be a better way to get it.

You used to plunk down $100 to $300 for a cell phone. Now the cost of a basic phone is built into the service. (You pay a little extra for a swank model.)

The Internet is pushing computers down the same path. Soon you'll buy the service and get the box for free. I've outlined a few ways to do that below. But first, are there advantages to renting?

For businesses, there are at least five great reasons to consider renting your hardware.
  • Cheap or nonexistent startup costs.
  • Tax-deductible payments
  • Predictable monthly costs
  • Standard configuration
  • Rapid rollout

In many cases, once the lease or rental term is up, you can trade the old machine in for a new one.

It's a natural for the people who own the infrastructure to lure you with free hardware. One came out with such a deal yesterday.

SBC just announced that it would be giving away Compaq PCs to those who buy its DSL service. They're not calling it a rental, but it is because you commit to the $60 per month cost of the deal ($1,440). That's about the cost of a computer, but you get DSL access and a mediocre computer.Click for more.

Computer companies have long been savvy to the different ways to sell their gear. There are lease plans from most major vendors. Two stand out.

  • Gateway's Gateway@work program.
  • Apple's Apple Financial Services.

A third path rapidly evolving is a company that in effect sets you up with turnkey office computing.

CenterBeam targets small businesses with up to 100 computer users. Wireless LANs and digital subscriber lines are key components of its service, which costs about $165 per user per month.

Everdream. Everdream, which comes in at about $150 per seat per month, angles toward the truly small shop, with fewer than 20 desktops.

PeoplePC offers a package of a new computer, unlimited Web access and in-home technical support.

For these companies, the cost of the hardware is incidental. They make their money on the service. On top of that, small businesses control their costs and service sellers have a steady stream of income.

Are you an owner or a renter, and which would you rather be? Tell me about it by hitting the Talkback button.

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