Yes, Intel is currently testing the water with processors that have certain features disables or limited, so that users can buy upgrade cards later on and improve the performance of their processors. This allows resellers and system builders to increase their margins - says Intel.
"Intel Upgrade Service enables down-the-wire upgrades of PC platform capabilities after the initial hardware shipment, offering unprecedented flexibility to resellers. Now your customers have more options with an easy upgrade path for additional performance or features when they are needed," Intel claims, "In 2010 we are rolling out a small pilot program offering performance upgrades on Intel Pentium G6951 Processors."
The pilot program is currently available to a limited number of customers in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands (OHAI), and Spain. The idea is that users buy a computer which has some processor features disabled, after which they can buy an upgrade card ($50) which downloads some software and unlocks the disabled features - double the L3 cache, enables four-way HyperThreading instead of just two-way.
An intriguing concept, but also incredibly confusing, and, dare I say it, misleading to customers, to whom buying a computer is already unpleasant enough an experience as it is. Also, want to bet how long it's going to take for someone to crack this system?