PCs could soon be sold with hard drives filled to capacity with pre-loaded but unlicensed software titles, ready to be activated when a licence key is purchased.
In this scenario, a PC would come pre-loaded with a digital town square retail program, which would enable users to run software demos, or use software for an evaluation period. Links to ecommerce websites from which licence keys can be purchased and downloaded, and a utility to delete unwanted titles and reclaim drive space, will also be included.
Because the software is pre-loaded on the machine, and users do not have to install CDs or download from the net, DigitalSquare, the US startup behind the scheme, said the instant gratification will lead to higher software sales.
DigitalSquare has already signed hard disk drive manufacturer Western Digital. Lee Paterson, chief executive of Western Digital, said: "We have signed further agreements with two OEMs and are in discussion with more. We have signed five software publishers and have access to thousands of titles through partnership agreements to be announced soon."
Paterson would not reveal the identity of these partners, but said: "They are worldwide companies with familiar names."
Paterson said DigitalSquare's existing agreements will give it "access to between 15 and 20 million PCs once fully implemented".
Ecommerce companies will also be interested in getting their names on the product, to guide customers to their sites.
Paterson said DigitalSquare will initially concentrate on consumers and small office users. He would not comment on whether distributors such as Ingram Micro or Computer 2000 are going to take on the hard drives, but said he would be talking to European firms, including PC World, that could be channels for the product, at trade fair Comdex later this week.
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