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Intel Wants To Charge $50 To Unlock Your CPU's Full Capabilities

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the say-no-to-hardware-dlc dept.

Intel 832

MBCook writes "Turnkey CPU upgrades aren't just for mainframes anymore. According to Engadget, OEMs (including Gateway) are selling computers with the Intel Pentium G6951, which can have extra cache and hyper-threading enabled through a $50 software unlock called Intel Upgrade Service."

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I'm all for it (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33623990)

Especially since it'll likely be pirated before the CPU ships.

Re:I'm all for it (1, Insightful)

camperslo (704715) | about 4 years ago | (#33624218)

I suppose the "price above all else" PC vendors will like this. If they can load up machines with demo software, why not have demo hardware to match?

Don't expect Apple to go along with this though...

This may backfire in multiple ways. As this gets attention it'll make consumers more aware of the potential (which usually means likely) privacy implications of having serialized CPU chips.

Re:I'm all for it (5, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 4 years ago | (#33624294)

Pirated or jailbroken, that is one CPU I will not buy. Intentionally holding a gun to the customer's head by crippling the device until you pay a ransom is not a way to get my business.

Re:I'm all for it (3, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | about 4 years ago | (#33624374)

Happens all the time, actually, they usually just don't offer a way to unlock it. They make a run of all the chips of a given architecture, then put them through tests. The ones that pass clean are set to highest offered speed or full cache, while the not quite so good ones are brought down a notch. Also happens for GPUs, hard drive platters, and even resistor tolerances.

Sometimes people figure out tricks to unlock everything (with the caveat that the company sold it to you that way for a reason), but who knew Intel would sell their own tool hacker tool?

Re:I'm all for it (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | about 4 years ago | (#33624304)

Exactly. Free unlocking FTW!

Re:I'm all for it (5, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#33624334)

You know... Intel being the CPU manufacturer, could make this really robust. Each CPU already gets stamped with a unique serial number. They could stamp each one with a unique unlock code that goes with the serial number, as well.

Then the only way to 'unlock' the function would be to go through Intel, so they would look up your specific CPU's unlock code in the database.

That's impossible to pirate, because there's no way you can share the code. As long as they assure the unlock code is the only mechanism allowed to re-enable the capabilities, and there is no BIOS mechanism to override the lock.

Yeah, That'll Last (3, Funny)

MoonBuggy (611105) | about 4 years ago | (#33623992)

Crack coming out in 3...2...1...

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (5, Funny)

BlkRb0t (1610449) | about 4 years ago | (#33624084)

Finally, we can pirate hardware.

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (1)

WoLpH (699064) | about 4 years ago | (#33624344)

It won't be the first time that we are able to pirate hardware. Just like the expensive processors that get an unlocked multiplier... just another way to get more money without actually doing anything. But they too have been pirated in the past. Remember that people were fooling around with silver to unlock there processors?

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624104)

Probably not if each chip is individual and has a one time pad encrypted.

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624160)

Probably not if each chip is individual and has a one time pad encrypted.

And that would probably be not very cost-effective, as in >$50 per potential client.

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624244)

I love how people who don't know much about encryption pick up the phrase "one-time pad" and assume it refers to some magical cryptographic panacea.

Hint 1: "one-time pad" means a little bit of paper with a key printed on it. You probably mean "one-time key", which is a rather more general concept that is easier to implement in silicon.

Hint 2: there's a reason why vast resources have been poured into inventing encryption systems that can securely use a single key repeatedly, and it's not because one-time key systems are economically viable.

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | about 4 years ago | (#33624356)

Hint 1: "one-time pad" means a little bit of paper with a key printed on it. You probably mean "one-time key", which is a rather more general concept that is easier to implement in silicon.

Isn't a one-time pad a stack of said little pieces of paper - usually bound in some way?

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (2, Informative)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 4 years ago | (#33624274)

Probably not if each slashdot poser knows what a one time pad is.

Re:Yeah, That'll Last (1)

v1 (525388) | about 4 years ago | (#33624364)

it would be completely impractical to try to hard code a different key onto each chip during manufacturing.

if they wanted to do this they'd have to have a fuse array in it like the satellite dish receivers use to decrypt their signals, set at the factory after production.

Possible... yes. Expensive... somewhat. Added complexity... absolutely. Likely.... not really.

It'll just come down to knowing a supasecret opcode sequence to execute that causes the chip to shift into higher gear until it gets reset. (powered off) So they'll send you a little bit of software that installs a startup item that loads and boosts the proc at some point in the boot process. It'll be just as (in)effective as any other software antipiracy method. I'm sure they'll try all sorts of tricks like keys customized to your windows key but in the end it all comes down to someone prying open the program and giving it some brain damage so it behaves more generously. Tho if it really is a simple opcode sequence, the pirates will probably chuck the program after they've decompiled it, and write a one-liner that unlocks it for you anytime you want.

piracy isn't even required (1)

mentil (1748130) | about 4 years ago | (#33624350)

Unlock codes aren't copyrightable, so wait until the required code is reverse-engineered

Step right up, place your bets (1)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | about 4 years ago | (#33623998)

on the date of the first crack to unlock it without paying the fee.

Re:Step right up, place your bets (2, Funny)

blai (1380673) | about 4 years ago | (#33624012)

Bollocks! Intel has Intel Genuine Advantage installed on the CPU!!

Re:Step right up, place your bets (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 4 years ago | (#33624342)

In any case, I don't really see what Intel has to gain from this. Why not simply sell their CPUs capable of their maximum speed and charge $50 extra in the first place? This would save them the trouble and expense of setting up and maintaining a lot of server architecture, and maintain customer goodwill into the bargain. A customer who has been blackmailed once is going to think twice before coming back.

Re:Step right up, place your bets (1)

neo0983 (837728) | about 4 years ago | (#33624026)

I am feeling generous today and will give Intel the benefit of the doubt that they are not completely incompetent. 1.5 days before the chips hit the general public.

Re:Step right up, place your bets (1)

teh moges (875080) | about 4 years ago | (#33624310)

Who cares if it can be pirated? It'll cost Intel very little to do this and the aim isn't to get lots of geeks paying $50, its to get average Joe at home to do it. They will still make money off this idea (so long as it isn't a huge PR disaster - selling crippled hardware...) with or without a patch.

I hope this doesn't fly ... (5, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 4 years ago | (#33624008)

but if it does, it's a big opportunity for AMD. Of course, odds are it'll get cracked at some point and we'll be able to grab an "Intel Upgrade Service Crack" torrent.

Presumably Intel will be using the CPU serial number to keep track of legitimate users and so forth. But here it comes: have we bought a central processing unit which has now become our property because we paid for it, or are we simply buying a "license" to use Intel's "intellectual property"? If I go out and buy a penknife, I don't expect to have to pay more money if I want to be able to use the built-in compass. Will the BSA (or some similar organization) come down on companies that unlock their processors without paying Intel's upgrade fee? This has the potential to get ugly.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624044)

That sounds an awful like circumventing a digital rights management technology. Remember, you didn't buy a CPU, you bought a /license/ to use the CPU.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624072)

Except, I'm not sure how that really applies to hardware. Can you license hardware? Remember, modding consoles is illegal because you start fiddling with licensed software as well, not just the hardware you own.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 years ago | (#33624338)

Yes, you might be "buying" the hardware, but you are also licensing software within the CPU [as I believe both AMD and Intel cpu's use microcode within it to process x86 instructions].

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (3, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 years ago | (#33624376)

CPUs have built-in software, they are just commonly called 'Microcode' instead of software.

Hyperthreading is a software feature that involves using hardware to implement it.

So is "VT" / Virtualization Technlogy

There are even ATOM CPUs where the hardware is 64-bit capable, but Intel ships without the 64-bit capability enabled in the software.

So, yes, it's a technlogical protection that defends intel's exclusive right to license and distribute the Hyperthreading software.

Until you have been provided the code, Intel has not licensed the Hyperthreading software to you. It's just like an expired trial version of any sort of shareware you might have on your computer.

I wonder if Intel will offer a 30 day trial of Hyperthreading and Cache expansion <GT>

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 4 years ago | (#33624120)

Right. Intel. DRM. BluRay.....

Snort.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

gnarlin (696263) | about 4 years ago | (#33624276)

And how many years did it take to crack that? Won't they upgrade the drm every year or so?

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (5, Informative)

Greyfox (87712) | about 4 years ago | (#33624062)

IBM's been doing that sort of thing for years. They ship you a mainframe with more processors than you ordered or a disk array with more disk than you ordered, and you can pay them to turn it on. Some companies only turn on their extra processors for a short time each year (Like end-of-year transaction processing) and if you decide you need some more space in your disk array, it's much more convenient than having to have more disks installed or buy a new disk array.

That's OS licensing... (3, Insightful)

Qubit (100461) | about 4 years ago | (#33624130)

IBM's been doing that sort of thing for years. They ship you a mainframe with more processors than you ordered or a disk array with more disk than you ordered, and you can pay them to turn it on.

Yes, but I'm pretty sure that's all predicated on IBM service contracts and/or the license on the IBM OS/application software running on the system.

If you're running a completely-FOSS debian install on top of these new Intel processors, what leverage do they have on you?

Re:That's OS licensing... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 years ago | (#33624292)

I guess they'll just put EULA into BIOS, and will flash "Press whatever to read EULA" alongside everything else on boot.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

kestasjk (933987) | about 4 years ago | (#33624266)

IBM's been doing that sort of thing for years. They ship you a mainframe with more processors than you ordered or a disk array with more disk than you ordered, and you can pay them to turn it on. Some companies only turn on their extra processors for a short time each year (Like end-of-year transaction processing) and if you decide you need some more space in your disk array, it's much more convenient than having to have more disks installed or buy a new disk array.

That almost sounds like .. a convenient, useful service.. But surely it can't both be good value for money, a good service, and use DRM can it?

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

Shyfer (1875644) | about 4 years ago | (#33624076)

Lately tech-related news is making me afraid of our future, seriously. Count how many good and how many bad news were on slashdot this year and you will see that things are not good.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | about 4 years ago | (#33624078)

Since its a software unlock, it can come down to a DMCA violation, or it's a possible software style "codec" to designed to "optimize" your processor (which would make it software piracy to do it without paying for the unlocked). As a hardware only concept it might be a harder issue (but could work along the lines of modchipping laws possibly), but since it's software then the BSA could decide to have a go at you.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 4 years ago | (#33624180)

I'm not a lawyer, or a computer/electrical engineer for that matter. However, I'm pretty sure, unless it was a direct copy of the of the intel unlock software, then the most you could do legally with regard to the software is some patent nonsense. Do a cleanroom operation to understand the process and host it from a location without software patents and its good.

As far as making modifications like that to your own hardware, the recent ruling on cell phone unlocking probably makes it pretty safe legally, although it's sure to void your warranty.

But then again, I don't really know the legal basis behind mod chip laws, and I'm no lawyer anyway. But I think a BSA issue is unlikely to be the avenue intel might try to stop it,

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | about 4 years ago | (#33624100)

I would imagine that it would be similar legally to applying mods or cracks to game consoles or iPhones. Breaking a digital lock is, in itself, illegal in some countries and that would certainly qualify. Beyond that, I've never really understood the argument that you can't do what you want with your phone/console/chip.

My question is how is the patch applied? Is it a firmware update on the processor itself? (Do processors have firmware to update?) Bios update? If it's in the operating system, what does the processor look like to a Linux kernel and how would one unlock it in that case? No doubt someone here has a better idea of how it will work than I do.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (0)

rumith (983060) | about 4 years ago | (#33624108)

Please keep in mind that usually such downgraded hardware is actually a top of the line CPU that has some defects and was unable to pass all the QA tests imposed on the flagship product. So while this stuff may be cracked, it is quite possible that people who do so will experience lots of bugs due to failing cache blocks and hyper-threading modules...
If that's the case, I don't see a problem here: Intel just charges more for a CPU that has all of its components working properly, and less for units that had high failure rates of the said components and had them disabled.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (1)

rumith (983060) | about 4 years ago | (#33624182)

Oh. I see. They're going to lock down fully capable CPUs. Now that's a shame.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624164)

IMO, much more secure would be to have the CPU sent back to Intel, and in the fabs, have equipment that can unlock it, instead of a software unlock.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624232)

Hardware unlock for extra $$$ has been around forever in business computing. It just makes sense all around, get over it.

Re:I hope this doesn't fly ... (5, Insightful)

Haeleth (414428) | about 4 years ago | (#33624316)

If I go out and buy a penknife, I don't expect to have to pay more money if I want to be able to use the built-in compass.

Not a great analogy. Can you try again only with more cars?

This isn't a case of you buying a Core i7 and Intel saying "by the way, we only gave you a Core i5, but you can have the full i7 you paid for if you give us another $50".

This is a case of you buying a Core i5 and Intel saying "here is exactly what you paid for, and by the way, if you ever decide you should have bought a Core i7 instead, we can magically teleport one into your computer for just $50".

If you want the pocket knife with a built-in compass, pay for the one that has a compass in it. If you deliberately buy a knife that says "KNIFE WITHOUT COMPASS (compass is available at extra cost)", you have no reason to complain when it turns out you have to pay extra to get a compass!

There's no bait-and-switch here. People are getting exactly what is advertised. Where's the problem?

benefit from embracing customers (-1, Redundant)

mikesd81 (518581) | about 4 years ago | (#33624016)

Wouldn't Intel benefit from embracing it's customers and just allowing this to be done?

Re:benefit from embracing customers (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | about 4 years ago | (#33624216)

Wouldn't Intel benefit from embracing it's customers and just allowing this to be done?

Maybe, but embracing this would benefit Intel's stockholders even more.

Re:benefit from embracing customers (1)

kestasjk (933987) | about 4 years ago | (#33624288)

Think of this service as customers who need those full capabilities subsidizing the customers who don't need them.

Whether Intel produces chips with or without these extra features it costs them the same, though it costs them more to design the features initially. This means that giving the features to everyone has to raise the price for everyone, even those who don't need the extra features.

I know making money is evil, but let's try to take a balanced view of this.

Can you hear that? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624020)

Can you hear that?

That's the sound of so many informed geeks switching to AMD.

Cue: (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 4 years ago | (#33624054)

(to the tune of the Intel commercial):

Bum-bum-bum-bum!

Re:Cue: (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 4 years ago | (#33624090)

More accurately, "dumb, dumb, dumb". What's next, using the IBM mainframe approach of charging for how many MIPs you use?

Re:Can you hear that? (5, Interesting)

hawkingradiation (1526209) | about 4 years ago | (#33624204)

Sometimes it is harder to get an OEM computer to use AMD (like apple) but according to AMD's website: Powering ultrathin notebooks to blade servers, all AMD processors shipped are designed to use AMD-V features. [amd.com] Where as Intel has been a little less free and more cumbersome. For instance most Atom processors by Intel do not support virtualization but all shipping AMD (and it has been a while) do. Also computer models such as the sony viao (undercapitalized for a reason) use the "feature" provided by Intel to disallow virtualization through the BIOS, meaning that you have to turn in on before booting. Along with other technology that AMD has developed makes you wonder why Intel is so dominant in the space. So for an informed geek, switching to AMD was already a good move, if only the manufacturers would follow.

Re:Can you hear that? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#33624368)

Along with other technology that AMD has developed makes you wonder why Intel is so dominant in the space.

Intel are bigger and better able to tune products to different markets. Leaving out virtualisation on Atoms means anyone crazy enough to consider doing so on an Atom will have to buy a more expensive CPU instead, and AMD don't have much to compete in the Atom's market.

AMD end up having to sell working quad-cores as dual-cores at significantly lower prices because they can't afford to build two different chips. In this case Intel seem to be selling intentionally crippled i3s for almost the same price as a fully functional i3, and then charging $50 on top to enable the i3 functionality that's been there all along... you'd be better to buy the real i3 in the first place.

Let's hope they used the same key as HDCP (3, Informative)

laing (303349) | about 4 years ago | (#33624028)

I believe that HP/Agilent was the first company to do this. They would manufacture something with gobs of RAM and then charge you extra money to enable the 'option' that was already present. It costs less for a manufacturer to produce a single version of their product than for multiple versions with different capabilities. Intel realizes this but their marketing people are full of shit (just like HP's were). They didn't lose any money when they sold you the processor. The software unlock is 100% pure profit. It's really annoying to know that you have paid for and posses capability that you cannot use.

Re:Let's hope they used the same key as HDCP (1)

SIR_Taco (467460) | about 4 years ago | (#33624140)

Intel used to do something similar with the Celeron series... they were just chips where some of the cache didn't work on. It was caught during manufacturing/QA and deemed a lower grade. Maybe the manufacturing process has reached a point where there are much fewer 'duds'.

I have no problem with a hardware company selling lower-grade hardware for a discounted price.

I do have a problem with a company selling a piece of hardware that is [i]intentionally[/i] down-graded. The cost of manufacture is equal to it's counterpart.... both should be equally expensive/cheap.

Re:Let's hope they used the same key as HDCP (1)

clifyt (11768) | about 4 years ago | (#33624318)

"Intel used to do something similar with the Celeron series..."

And it was happening years before that too. I owned a 486SX machine and was looking to upgrade (Doom was big at the time...the original) and played badly on the SX, but was decent on the DX. Turns out that much like the celeron, the math coprocessor was often damaged on the chip and they just downgraded it to the version without the math. But after a while, it was nearly impossible to find one that was actually damaged, but it was still sold this way.

I forget what it took to change the chip...I think there was a jumper that was physically cut and one could solder it, or maybe put it into a different socket that enabled it (it was like 92....I can't remember that far back!) but I remember it wasn't that expensive or difficult -- and much cheaper than buying a new chip. And worked perfectly (and even on the ones that it didn't, there were math libraries that were optimized to look for the errors and would revert to the standard if errors did occur).

But yeah, this has been going on for YEARS....

Re:Let's hope they used the same key as HDCP (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624178)

The product you refer to is called HP Instant Capacity (iCAP)

https://h20392.www2.hp.com/portal/swdepot/displayProductInfo.do?productNumber=B9073BA

Re:Let's hope they used the same key as HDCP (1)

icebike (68054) | about 4 years ago | (#33624278)

When was that?

I specifically remember working on a Control Data Corp CDC3200 (circa 1970) which was nothing but a 3300 with delay lines installed to slow it down. Simply removing a specific card (secret) did the upgrade.

Didnt they do this with the old ibm printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624030)

Didnt they do this with the old ibm printers during the 70's and early 80's? But then everyone learned to hack them.

Ridiculous... (1)

Shyfer (1875644) | about 4 years ago | (#33624032)

This is so ridiculous (and should be illegal)... And I tought we had control of our PC hardware, I guess in future PC hardware and architecture will be closed like game consoles are now. Also, I have read that they only unlock extra cache that was already there but showed some problem. So they are selling 'unlock cards' to unlock defective cache? Sounds good.

And Engadget seems to support it, at least their post make sound they do, corporate drones...

Re:Ridiculous... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624094)

"And I tought we had control of our PC hardware"

Not really. You can replace Windows or OS X with Linux, but have you ever worried about the BIOS, the hard drive's firmware, the network card's firmware, the graphics drivers, etc.? There's a fuckload of closed-up shit software in every system sold.

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

Shyfer (1875644) | about 4 years ago | (#33624174)

Yeah, unfortunately you are right. Good old times when we had complete control of our PC hardware.
I still cant understand what a company earns closing everything (I'm looking at you apple), I feel that if a company projected a brand new PC architecture, very optimized and stuff, completly open, linux support, etc they would be very successful. Not only geeks would fall in love with it, but also small (and big) companies that need a new architecture but dont have the money to develop it would. Sadly I dont see this happening =/

Re:Ridiculous... (3, Insightful)

dimeglio (456244) | about 4 years ago | (#33624134)

Look at it this way: you buy a CPU at $200 with one core. A year later, you need more performance. Instead of trashing the entire computer (ram, cpu, and motherboard at least), you simply pay a mere $50, unlock 3 more cores, booth the clock by 100% and throw-in hyperthreading. You'll extend the life of the unit for at least another year saving a few hundred dollars. Make it 6 months and another 6 months but the idea is the same.

I might work great if the price and options are right.

Re:Ridiculous... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624240)

Last I checked, CPU upgrades don't necessitate RAM and motherboard changes. Especially within the same family. Your attempt fails.

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

Z34107 (925136) | about 4 years ago | (#33624360)

Remember, this is Intel. He's spot-on.

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | about 4 years ago | (#33624252)

Look at it this way: you buy a CPU at $200 with one core. A year later, you need more performance. Instead of trashing the entire computer (ram, cpu, and motherboard at least), you simply pay a mere $50, unlock 3 more cores, booth the clock by 100% and throw-in hyperthreading. You'll extend the life of the unit for at least another year saving a few hundred dollars. Make it 6 months and another 6 months but the idea is the same.

I might work great if the price and options are right.

Or look at it this way: you buy a CPU at $200 to have access to 100% of it, and then a year later you don't need more performance since you already bought all of the chips performance at the beginning (like most physical objects). No needing to spend more money just to open up what you already bought and paid for.

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

Shyfer (1875644) | about 4 years ago | (#33624258)

Look at is this way: you buy an $200 CPU and get what you pay for, instead of having to pay another $50 to unlock what you already paid for just because the company that sells it to you is too greedy.

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 4 years ago | (#33624272)

It also means that for a full year, you've been wasting 3 cores for no purpose at all when you could've used them right away otherwise. I'm sorry but whichever way I'm looking at, this is the very definition of getting shafted. Would you want your Ferrari's 5th gear to be an unlockable?

Re:Ridiculous... (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 4 years ago | (#33624282)

No. This is pure money grab. You buy a CPU that cost the same to manufacture as the higher end CPU, but is crippled until you pay more money. Which means, that the higher end CPU also costs the same to manufacture, which means that the company is too greedy.

This is the same as buying a car with a lock placed over the radio, unless you pay some more money. The radio is still there, so the car with locked radio was not cheaper to make, yet they ask for additional money for it.

Yes, I know that the price does not really depend on the cost of manufacture, but the companies do not need to actually show that to everyone.

Re:Ridiculous... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624300)

Or they could have just given you the full-powered cpu from the start, since it is current technology then and not in the future, and it costs them exactly $0 more. There is no feasible way they lose money, and they have no argument that they couldn't sell you the "better" cpu at the same price. Smells like a Clayton or Sherman act violation to me. Are they selling the underpowered chips cheaper to appease a competitor who can't compete?

$200 should have bought full functionality then (5, Insightful)

mrnobo1024 (464702) | about 4 years ago | (#33624328)

They wouldn't have sold the crippled CPU to you if $200 wasn't a fair price for at least the full quad-core CPU, since that's what they had to manufacture. Whether you keep it as single-core, or pay extra for the upgrade, you are with absolute certainty being ripped off.

Re:Ridiculous... (2, Insightful)

NF6X (725054) | about 4 years ago | (#33624358)

Except that I've already paid for that hardware with the original $200, and Intel made a profit on it unless they were daft enough to sell it to me at a loss. It cost a fixed amount to build that chip, based on wafer cost, die size, test time and yield. It'd be one thing if they took a bunch of chips in which some of the nonessential features failed final test and then sold them at a lower cost instead of throwing them away, but these proposed feature-locked chips are necessarily fully-functional chips in which they've chosen to hold some of the features for ransom. This is simply price gouging.

This is just like paying $20,000 for an SUV, and then later paying another $5,000 for the key that opens the back doors and the cargo area once I've decided that two seats and a glovebox aren't enough for me.

Try another vendor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624034)

Seriously. Write off any and all vendors who do this. And if Intel is actively supporting the practice, right them off as well.

Price per watt and cpuc cycle be damned, if I'm buying a business model crippled cpu from the get go.

Intel. This is your 1 warning.

Lock in the BIOS or in the CPU? (3, Interesting)

crow (16139) | about 4 years ago | (#33624038)

It would be relatively simple for the BIOS to turn off CPU features in such a way that they can't be turned back on without a reset. So the easy way to implement this would be for Intel to partner with a PC vendor and charge for the BIOS upgrade that doesn't disable the CPU features in question. With such a system, it would mean that you could pull the CPU and put it in a different motherboard, and get all the features, but that's not going to be a concern for the business model until they're talking about hundreds of dollars for the added features.

Putting this into the CPU would require that the CPUs be designed specifically to support this, which is not as likely to be the case, but would be much more difficult to defeat.

Similar experience at bestbuy (1)

js3 (319268) | about 4 years ago | (#33624048)

So I went to buy a laptop from bestbuy and this dude from the geeksquad told me they could make my cpu go 18% faster. I was baffled, I asked him, "so you're saying i'm buying a cpu that's 18% slower than what it says on the specs?". After giving him sarcastic replies for like 3mins, he finally told me they didn't have that system in stock, lol. The asshole probably wanted to sell that shit to some unsuspecting mom. Fuck the geeksquad.

Re:Similar experience at bestbuy (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624092)

Fifteen enormous cocks raping every orifice in your body.

Re:Similar experience at bestbuy (5, Funny)

Kitkoan (1719118) | about 4 years ago | (#33624264)

Fifteen enormous cocks raping every orifice in your body.

I couldn't describe hiring the geeksquad any better then that.

Re:Similar experience at bestbuy (1)

Mitsoid (837831) | about 4 years ago | (#33624210)

Most of those services remove the default useless bloatware from your new PC for you -- which means, yes, it can go faster.

However, most of us that read sites like these already know to clean slate their new PC anyway...

And just a note... that bloatware is not installed by Retailers -- it is installed by the PC manufacturer, so in some cases people do appreciate these services as they do not know how to remove them themselves.... Not any of us though, since we know how to deal with the bloat...

I do not believe their claims though, but I do agree you can get *some* improvement by removing them

Good Idea (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 4 years ago | (#33624066)

Probably cheaper to produce and cheaper to buy, at least for the end user who knows his way around the interwebs. So everybody wins.

not new (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | about 4 years ago | (#33624070)

IBM has been doing this in with mainframes for a while. As long as you sell these to businesses with lawyers who will flip out if they hear of IT breaking contracts, Intel should be fine, too.

Remind anyone of IBM? (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about 4 years ago | (#33624080)

This model works fine for large business servers where downtime is expensive -- unlock the resources when you grow -- but the audacity of doing this on the x86 platform is fail.

Intel Fanboys (2, Funny)

r6_jason (893331) | about 4 years ago | (#33624086)

I wonder if the Intel Fanboys have udders, because Intel sure is trying to milk them.

Easier than disabling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624096)

This seems to remind me of the practice of manufacturing one line of product due to the economies of scale but then intentionally disabling functionality in order to be able to market a broader line of products. Maybe instead of physically and permanently disabling that functionality it would be more economical to sell them in all cases as the lower end product with an available upgrade to the higher end product?

I agree that if there is a way to enable the functionality in software that it is only a matter of time before someone figures out how to crack it rendering the concept moot.

Hey, I don't mind.. (1)

xemc (530300) | about 4 years ago | (#33624116)

As long as I get a $50 break on a new CPU!

Seriously, if you get less you should pay for less. They'd still be competing with their other chips (and AMD's).. so it's not like you shouldn't get what you pay for.
That being said, this is like Intel creating a similar avenue as overclocking.. getting more performance from a cheaper chip. I'd really be tempted to get a crippled / cheaper CPU and just crack it to get the full-price speed.

Re:Hey, I don't mind.. (5, Insightful)

sdnoob (917382) | about 4 years ago | (#33624224)

As long as I get a $50 break on a new CPU!

You already are... by buying the Pentium instead of the more expensive i3 that already has the extra MB of L3 and HT enabled.

_____

Intel and AMD have both been shipping chips with certain features disabled to meet market demands for years. Nvidia and ATI do the same with GPUs. Sometimes the disabled parts are actually defective, but sometimes not. Then you have two chips that cost the exact same to manufacture sell at two different price points, with the manufacturer intentionally choosing to sell some at a lower price (with the plan of making up the difference through higher sales).

Owners of certain AMD processors have been able to unlock entire cores along with extra cache for some time now. Intel is just trying to profit from it. I just don't know how well that idea will go over with the uninformed masses. I think many will be just a bit pissed-off that they were sold an intentionally-crippled computer. Unfortunately, any backlash will be aimed at the company who's logo is on the box, not Intel.

Re:Hey, I don't mind.. (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | about 4 years ago | (#33624302)

Doubt they would give you a $50 break on the new CPU, I don't think the markup is that high and they aren't going to sell the CPU's at a loss hoping everyone will pay for the upgrade (because I doubt most would bother since most people only use their computer to surf the web, listen to mp3's and play something like FarmVille, not the most CPU intensive). And they won't bump up the markup because that would give companies like AMD one hell of a competitive advantage by AMD just cutting their markup to below $50.

Re:Hey, I don't mind.. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 4 years ago | (#33624346)

I kind of agree but this is seriously a dick move.

At least in older times they took the effort of cutting the traces or removing the units all together ala 486SX/DX chips.

i don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624128)

i don't really understand...
a software update for, lets say, iphone, makes sense you ask some cash for it, it has been extra work to make that software update
for hardware?? you made the whole thing already, if it is able to do that, why not sell it at the full price imidiatly?
to me it seems... if you sell it at a lower price and hope for some to pay for it, you are giving something which you deem to have a higher value, but just aren't giving the full potential. if it has all the options, why not sell it with all options for the full price?
its not as if there is any way to actually earn more by selling it for less then you deem it worth and have few people actually pay for the extra value.

they already need to check if everything on it is working, because they can't offer an upgrade if it might not work hardware like, so its not as if they are asking extra for the broken chips... its just weird.

Don't let the marketing get to you... (3, Interesting)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about 4 years ago | (#33624138)

Don't let the marketing get to you, and do not encourage it.

If you are shopping for processors, simply disregard the "upgrades" and treat the product accordingly. Does it compare with fully unlocked competitors?

No? Then don't buy it. Yes? Then buy it but don't upgrade.

Re:Don't let the marketing get to you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624250)

I'm excited about the other path - imagine what can they offer me with a $100 or $150 upgrade!

Capitalism sucks (1, Insightful)

log0n (18224) | about 4 years ago | (#33624158)

I'm getting so fucking tired of companies creating ways to further nickel and dime.

There's no chance this coupon is going to bring down the price of a computer by $50 to correspond to the loss of features, this is just another way to make some coin after the fact.

We never end up saving money, it's all bullshit.

Re:Capitalism sucks (1)

overtly_demure (1024363) | about 4 years ago | (#33624192)

But Comrade, it's really great bullshit!

MS Windows? (1)

overtly_demure (1024363) | about 4 years ago | (#33624170)

Isn't this how MS Windows works since a couple of versions ago?

Re:MS Windows? (1, Redundant)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 years ago | (#33624260)

Isn't this how Windows works now? There's a window somewhere which says that for $80 I can enable the 'Pro' features of Windows 7 that are already installed on my PC.

Could be a huge marketing tool (1)

mikeabbott420 (744514) | about 4 years ago | (#33624188)

I think the possibility of a crack is irrelevant.

Maybe this is just an extension of the normal binning any semiconductor process produces and a demonstration that at this particular tick/tock point the yields are excellent.
More likely though is that CPU performance has become so complicated to predict, and so often irrelevant to many classes of users, that this is intels best guess at how to upsell CPU's to users who have no idea how different CPUs perform.

Some people pay for good reason, Some people buy intel instead of AMD because a crack means they can "get something for nothing" but mostly imagine all the people getting frustrated with some poorly written piece of software and thinking "50$ .. worth a try" .

It's hard out there for a pimp, when pimping cpu's to farmville players.

Hooray for alternatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624206)

After reading this I can't help but be a little more satisfied with my cheap as hell AMD 9600 Black Edition I got off TigerDirect just yesterday for 70 bucks or so, less from the bundle discount.
I know AMD does the same sort of thing in terms of locking SOME models, but this cheap 2.3ghz quad core I picked up that came totally unlocked is great and I hope we as consumers can continue to support products that truly serve us better instead of just being the flashiest at this moment.

How to address it? It's quite simple for anyone outside of maybe a few cutting-edge scenarios. Don't buy it, let the inventory pile up and the competitors catch up. Buy the next closest model that doesn't have the psycho-DRM or rapacious "services", and if all the models have that then buy from another company, its that simple. To some extent brand-fanboys have themselves to blame for encouraging this kind of blatant abuse that comes when companies gain this kind of sway over a market segment.

What's next, Windows only CPUs? (2, Interesting)

Da w00t (1789) | about 4 years ago | (#33624290)

How come the software to "unlock" this capability appears to be windows only?

Re:What's next, Windows only CPUs? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | about 4 years ago | (#33624348)

Probably because it's a software lock and the CPU is unlocked without it lol. Btw I'm sort of new to programming but can't someone just flip the boolean bit in memory with some sort of memory editor (I hear they exist) for the software that represents the variable responsible for validating the keys? I mean don't most programs just do their fancy encryption keys and then flip a boolean switch or at least use a temp one inside an if statement? So flip that and the thing thinks it's validated. No need for a key generator.

How will they advertise this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33624312)

If Intel says "you're getting system X for 2000 USD" and that's what you get, I don't see the problem.

If Intel says "you're getting system X for 2000 USD"...."but now that you've paid us 2000 USD you have to pay 50 USD more to use system X" that seems like its a pretty nasty swindle.

Given Intel's past actions, they'll probably walk the latter route.

Oh-my-effing-Gawd (1)

Astronomerguy (1541977) | about 4 years ago | (#33624320)

Grrrr....I can feel the nerd rage building...must...punch....pillow...!!! Seriously, this is pure nickle-and-diming of the consumer. Fuck the moron in Marketing that grunted out this steaming pile of idiocy, I prefer a nice black-and-white binning model with related price points to this micro-purchase crap. This is so asinine that I'm sorely tempted to take a serious second look at AMD. Note to Intel: WT-effing-F???

Windows 7 only unlock! (5, Interesting)

scrib (1277042) | about 4 years ago | (#33624332)

"Currently, CPU upgrades are available on selected Windows 7 systems."

It installs the application. Does it run every time your computer boots? Does that mean the unlock isn't permanent? If I pay to unlock the chip, and then reboot into Linux, is the CPU still unlocked? If I have to reinstall Windows, do I have to reinstall (or re-purchase) the upgrade?

No thanks...

Is this some kind of flash update or os based? (2, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33624372)

Is this some kind of flash update or os based?

So will it be $50 per os reload?

Will you be able to buy it one time and make a image and mass deploy it?

Will Linux just auto unlock the cpu?

Will some MB auto unlock the cpu?

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