Heavily subsidized computers are hardly a new idea, as evidenced by the number of carriers now offering "free
, but a recently revealed patent application indicates that Microsoft might be thinking about taking the idea a few steps further. Apparently, the company is at least toying around with the idea of offering a computer with "scalable performance level components" and selectable software, which sounds somewhat similar to the "managed PC" that Microsoft developed with Korea's KT telecom a few years back
. That would effectively let users only pay for the features that they used, with some added graphics performance or storage space simply a few bucks an hour away, as helpfully illustrated above. To prevent folks from "unlocking" the PC, each computer would also come equipped with a security module and metering agent that locks the PC to a particular supplier, and presumably offers up a whole host of other restrictions. Of course, this is a Microsoft patent application and, as we've seen, that hardly assures an actual product.