Have you seen the recent news about Intel and its plan to offer processor upgrades via a gift card type set up?

Well the basic premise is that you would purchase your new processor and install it in your machine.  Now before you even install the processor it already has additional capabilities available on the processor itself they are just not activated.

Activation occurs when you purchase a gift card and apply it through an upgrade reseller in a process Intel has dubbed down-the-wire upgrades.  When the card is applied additional hardware capabilities on your chip are made available and you enjoy a higher level of performance from your processor then someone who has not purchased the upgrade.

I have seen a few different opinions on this over the last few days as this story has floated around the tech blogs and the one I agree with the most is Paul Thurrott and his commentary about it earlier this week

I mean there are plenty of examples of post product enhancements being sold as add-ons, downloadable content such as for games on the Xbox 360 that are delivered via Xbox Live, new maps for games, etc.

Of course a lot of these upgrades cost you money to get them and there are some that are offered for free.  This system obviously works because Xbox Live for example posted a massive profit increase in quarter three of this year and a big part of that is DLC you get for games on Xbox Live.

The major difference between this additional material for games and the idea that Intel has come up with is that the material for games is typically developed after the initial game release.  Yes I am sure some of the planned add-ons are already conceived as part of the development of the overall games but it is not typically shipped in the game waiting to be unlocked.

With the Intel Down-The-Wire upgrades the capability is already on the chip – it is just sitting dormant – waiting for you to plop down your money to unlock the upgrade and increased capability. 

Why not just sell the chip based on its complete capabilities?  By stretching the cost of the chip over a handful of upgrades does nothing more than try to mask the real cost of the processor. 

Those who want that capability will pay for it up front and then down the road they will upgrade to a new processor when they are ready – just like it works right now.

Other stories on this new upgrade process:

So what do you think? Good idea or just a money grab?