Microsoft to offer free Works software

3 Aug 2007

In a first for Microsoft, the company will be releasing a free, ad-supported version of the Works software package in the next few months.

The advertisements will be placed discreetly on the bottom corners of the screen, according to Microsoft, and will not interfere with the user’s workflow.

The free Works 9 SE package will come pre-installed on PCs, but Microsoft has not yet announced which geographic areas it will be limited to.

Advertisements come pre-loaded – but when the user connects to the internet, they are updated and replaced with new ones.

This free software concept is part of a business model that Microsoft plans to test for a year, gauging if advertising can actually financially support the distribution.

While this ad-supported word processing and spreadsheet software is a big move for the company, the industry is craning its neck to see if the model will be brought online.

With Google Docs, Zoho and Ajax13 all offering free word processing and spreadsheet applications online with no software installation necessary, and Web 2.0 functionality built in, it is doubtful that Microsoft will follow this popular trend.

Last week, speaking at Microsoft’s financial analyst meeting in Redmond, US, CEO Steve Ballmer said that while an online component to software was where the industry was headed, a purely online existence was “wrong-minded”.

The built-in ads come as no surprise following Microsoft’s much-publicised intention to eat into the valuable Google-dominated online advertising market.

Microsoft’s adCentre is beginning to gain ground and credibility by way of a major deal with popular social news site after Google had been given its marching orders.

By Marie Boran