Intel is testing new system where cards can be purchased at retail to unlock features of your processor (similar to Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrade program for Windows). Engadget reports that a Best Buy customer first noticed a new $50 card, that allows for a software-managed processor upgrade for a Gateway notebook (Intel’s Pentium G6951). Sure enough, the card sends customers to the Intel Upgrade Service website for more information.
The cards, as sold in Best Buy. Image source: Engadget.
It works as follows: A user buys a PC, it comes with an average processor, and they can upgrade it to a better processor without any physical work. Now this may sound strange, and you may ask “why not just give the customer the better processor?” Well, it’s all about branding and perception. Like any company, Intel has multiple products that are targeted at multiple demographics. To maintain this mix, they need products that range from low-end through to high-end, and Intel needs to be able to justify price differences to the customer. The problem for Intel, particularly in recent years, has been the industry push on low prices.
Retailers choose the notebooks that they sell on a specification vs. price basis, which then pushes hardware manufacturers to purchase lower-end components to reduce the prices of their machines. Intel, in what I think is a brilliant move, has effectively countered that problem from their end. They sell a low-end CPU (in features, that is), and then let the customer decide during, or post-purchase, if they would like some extra power in their machine. If successful, this technology/service may end up featuring on Intel’s entire CPU range.
And in case you want to see it, here’s the process from a more technical point of view:
Image source: Intel.