Microsoft plans to expand an earlier trial
of its FlexGo service -- which allows customers in the developing world to pay for PCs by the hour -- to customers in Brazil, Mexico, China, India and Russia. Under the program, which is being rolled out with PCs from Lenovo and other partners, customers pay about half the price of a $600 PC upfront, and pay the rest with prepaid cards similar to those used for long-distance phone calls. The PC dials the mothership periodically to track usage; customers are charged by the hour for PC usage, and also pay the remainder due on the PC's purchase over time. According to Microsoft, pricing and interest rates vary by market, but we somehow suspect that consumers who can afford it are probably still better off paying for that PC upfront.