Intel Breaks New Ground: Selling Unlock Cards for Chipsets

Intel announced that it will be using one of its lower-end chipsets to test whether or not customers will be privy to purchasing upgrade codes to enable certain components of their chipsets. Intel will enable this technology on its low end Pentium G6951 line of processors.

Intel won’t be offering this choice with all of its chips yet. It’s simply a test program right now. In fact, the G6951 processor will be sold only through specific OEM dealers and the codes will be available from retail monoliths such as Best Buy.

The codes will be sold like a gift card, making them very similar to other codes that users may purchase when upgrading specific pieces of software. The card and code will cost $50 and will enable features for the G6951 such as increasing the L3 cache from 1MB to 4MB and enable Hyper-Threading.

The interesting and frustrating part about these chipsets is that they will actually be shipping with this these functionalities already in the chip, it is merely software/hardware blocks that disable the functionality of the chipset. This is a bit disappointing that Intel would do something like this, but I don’t think a lot of people will really complain (with the exception of the mainstream media and a few tech enthusiasts). Some people may in fact see this as a cool alternative to having to upgrade their PCs. When their PC starts to become slow, they can simply purchase this $50 code to make it go faster. That is not how I see it, but how I could see some non-tech people viewing this. I’m sure Intel must be thinking the same thing, otherwise they wouldn’t have even begun testing the market.

With that aside, I really hope the test market fails and Intel doesn’t do this to a further extent. I can only imagine the repercussions it could possibly have. Obviously, someone will find a way to break through the blocks and enable the technology for free, or at a significantly reduced cost. The other thing to note is whether AMD will follow-up with a similar ploy.

How does this relate to Microsoft? Quite simple, Microsoft has since the Vista days (and to some degree before this) allowed upgrade keys to be sold individually as well. Recall the functionality of Windows Anytime Upgrade, this feature allows users to purchase an upgrade code which enables certain functionalities of Windows to be enable without the use of a disc or file. In fact, the code for Windows 7 Ultimate is included on every Windows 7 disc, including Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional. Installing Windows 7 Home Premium locks the  Professional and Ultimate bits and using the upgrade code then unlocks them.

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