Microsoft has considered producing computers to be offered on a pay-to-play basis.

The concept, revealed by a 2007 Microsoft patent application, would see owners of such machines paying an hourly rate to use pre-loaded programmes and services.

As well as paying to access the software, the performance level of such machines could be scalable, with access to more memory, or faster performance charged for too.

The idea behind the concept is that users may only occasionally need certain programmes, so is an alternative to buying hundreds of pounds worth of software up front for limited use.

In the application, Microsoft reveals how the system might be priced:

"The Office bundle may be $1.00 per hour, the Gaming bundle may be $1.25 per hour, and the Browsing bundle may be $0.80 per hour. Alternatively, a bundle may incur a one-time charge that is operable until changed or for a fixed usage period".