Does Microsoft Want to Take Your Whole PC to the Cloud?
Microsoft has filed a patent for a "Metered Pay-As-You-Go Computing Experience." The exact words of the filing’s abstract are as follows:
A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected. The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed. An administrator may use a similar user interface to set performance levels for each computer in a network, allowing performance and cost to be set according to a user’s requirements.
Basically, what this indicates is that users would obtain a PC for little or no cost, and then pay to use different programs as services, and be charged accordingly, similar to the cell phone model. In other words, this would be cloud computing to the max, only for a fee.
Donald Melanson at Engadget, who provides the above diagram of the concept, notes that it "sounds somewhat similar to the ‘managed PC’ that Microsoft developed with Korea’s KT telecom a few years back."
On the one hand, the pay-as-you-go model could make computers more affordable to more people, and machines would theoretically have longer life spans. But while there are both pros and cons to this kind of scenario, I must admit that the idea of being able to use programs strictly based upon prices set by Microsoft on an ongoing basis is a little scary.
I can see them driving even more customers right into the arms of Apple. I agree with John Herrman at Gizmodo who says, "The idea of subsidized, service-fee based computing has potential, but not like this. It’d be hard to imagine Microsoft winning many fans by forcing users to pay to unlock the obvious potential of hardware that is sitting right in front of them."
This is just a patent filing though. To my knowledge, Microsoft has not made any announcements or anything indicating that PC users will have to switch to a system like this anytime soon. They’re still trying to overcome the ill response to Vista, so I don’t imagine they want to throw a curveball like this just yet. Still, we’re seeing an increase in cloud computing initiatives all around, so something like this might be closer than we know.