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Free PCs Are Back

from the all-these-bubble-business-models... dept

One by one, each of the silly dot com bubble business models seems to be making a comeback. Remember FreePC.com? It was the Idealab company that would give you a free computer for a few years if you agreed to have ads show up on the machine around the edges of your monitor. The company eventually realized that (a) many people were doing the deal and then wiping out the hard-drive and (b) they couldn’t sell nearly enough advertising to make it profitable. Well, here’s that same business model all over again – except even more annoying. A company in the UK is willing to give away free PCs if you agree to watch three minutes of advertisements for every hour you use your computer. They compare it to watching television, which suggests just how much they don’t understand computing use these days. Computers and the internet are not a broadcast medium, but an interactive one. Simply trying to replicate a broadcast business model is doomed to fail. Anyway, the company says they will send each customer a CD-ROM full of new ads every month (which seems likely a fairly costly distribution model), that will need to be installed or the PC will stop working. I wonder how that’s really possible if the computer owner simply formats the hard-drive and starts from scratch.

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Comments on “Free PCs Are Back”

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Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Contract fine print

I’m sure in the fine print it will say that if you fail to update the software and allow your system to send the information back to the their servers every month that they have the right to re-possess your PC, or more likely, charge it to a credit-card that you will have to provide in order to receive the ‘free’ PC in the first place.

LittleW0lf says:

Re: Contract fine print

I’m sure in the fine print it will say that if you fail to update the software and allow your system to send the information back to the their servers every month…

Well, according to what I’ve read on The Register, this is exactly what they are doing. But it appears that everything is on the contractual side of the house than the technical side. Apparently the agreement requires that you use the service at least 30 hours a month (damn, I have broadband at home and I am lucky if I am “on the internet” a full 30 hours a month, and that is even counting the fact that my weather station is sending weather data every ten minutes to various servers.) It also appears that you can only use a modem and dial-up to connect, that broadband connections are verbotten by the contract (probably because they don’t want everyone connected to their ad servers at once all the time.)

I still think it is ridiculous, a computer is all of $200-$500 (and I just bought a mini-itx computer for the low end of that range which comes with everything but memory and a hard drive.)

Computers are so cheap now that I look elite among my non-computer friends when they ask me how much it would cost to upgrade their computer and I give them a quote thats a third of the cost of a brand new “Compaq” they saw in the Best Buy ad (far more expensive than it should be…, though I just saw an add not to long ago for a 1.7gHz machine for $500, with a monitor and a printer in their ads, so apparently they are getting the picture too.)

According to one of the articles, IBM was listing the cost of their machine at $800, which Metronomy is giving away as part of their offer. Why anyone would pay $800 for an IBM computer is beyond me. Caveat Emptor…

Anarchy says:

Re: Re: Contract fine print

I can’t see how any of this is enforcable.
Also it is legally dubious. As computer engineers and software engineers in the good ole days some used to stick disablers onto peoples Pc’s – so that those who did not pay their bills had their Pc’s disabled to remind them of the fact. This worked OK until a client challenged it and won. It is actually illegal to disable anybody’s Pc for any reason what so ever and doing so has many penalties covered by hacking,virus and Data Protection legislation. Even though Metronomy still own the Pc the user taking posession is 9/10ths of the law. For example if you have vital documents and say MS word that you have installed on the PC yourself – for Metronomy to deny to you access to this would probably be an illegal act.
Secondly Metronomy claim to be able to identify to the household level if you have complied. This is clearly nonsense. The best they could get is an IP address and if you have a decent firewall they won’t even get this. If you immediately reformat and load the OS of your choice or hack out the addware I can’t see that how they can have a clue as to whether you have used the PC or not. They are relying on most peoples low skill base and techno-fear to bring compliance.
I think the business model is doomed to failure anyway. Surely the only people interested will be hackers,students,unemployed and low income families all of whom are of little use in generating advertising revenue and from whom the likelyhood of recovering the property or financial penalty is very low. I’m going to get me one of these because I think it unlikely that Metronomy will see out the year so it will really be a free Pc folks!

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