Intel’s experiment: buy the PC, then pay a bit more to unleash its full power

By Jordan Robertson, AP
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Intel’s test: buy the PC, then pay for more speed

SAN FRANCISCO — What if you bought a house and were told there’s a secret rooftop deck you’ll have to pay extra to access? If you’re shopping for a personal computer this holiday season, you might get that kind of proposition from an unlikely source: Intel Corp., the world’s biggest maker of personal computer processors.

Intel is including Pentium chips that are better than advertised in some low-end desktop computers. But to unlock their full power, buyers will need to a pay an extra fee..

The company says the program will enable people who have bought inexpensive PCs to upgrade them cheaply, through the Internet

It’s only a test so far, with the goal of gathering feedback.

News of the test has slipped onto technology blogs, and has rankled some hardcore techies because it asks people to pay extra for things the chips are already capable of doing.

“Intel is exploring a way to give customers the flexibility to determine the level of performance they want in their processor, without having to change hardware,” Intel said in a statement.

People upgrade lots of things on their computers, but most typically won’t swap out the microprocessor, which acts as a PC’s “brain.” For Intel, the business model it could provide an extra revenue stream , and it costs it very little to include a better chip.

But Intel needs to please not just consumers, but PC makers. They might not like the prospect of one of their most important suppliers helping PC buyers not buy a new PC.

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