Microsoft To Release Free Ad-Supported Productivity Suite, Sort Of

from the whatever-works dept

For obvious reasons, Microsoft is extremely reluctant to touch the business model of its money-spinning Office suite, despite the fact that competition from free, web-based services is increasing. Not only is Microsoft unlikely to introduce a web-based Office anytime soon, the official line from the company is that software-as-a-service isn’t what customers want, but that software+services is the ideal model. Of course, nobody else in the industry seems quite as excited about software+services as Microsoft is, which probably has something to do with the fact that such a model would leave the company’s overall business model intact. That being said, the company has apparently released a new ad-supported version of its Microsoft Works suite, the company’s low-end productivity suite. However, the company still isn’t delivering it over the internet. This is sort of an odd compromise. For one thing, consumers won’t be particularly enthused by ad-supported desktop software. Faced with a choice between this and Google’s productivity offerings, they’ll likely choose the latter. If Microsoft were to make Works the backbone of a web-based offering, it’d be a different story. The fact that the company isn’t doing this sort of makes you wonder whether Microsoft is really fearful, to use an old cliche, of validating the market. Perhaps it believes that by releasing an on-demand Works, it would draw attention to this whole area, thus benefiting the competition. If so, this strategy can’t work for long. It’s only a matter of time before consumers learn more about the options available to them, and it’s up to Microsoft whether it wants to follow the direction its customers are likely to go.

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Companies: google, microsoft

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Comments on “Microsoft To Release Free Ad-Supported Productivity Suite, Sort Of”

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jhunter says:

Software as a service?

I never understood why people were so excited about spreadsheets and word processor in a web browser? The technology is certainly neat, but I have to agree with MS on this one, I would much rather have a program that runs locally then one I where I have to depend on the reliability of Comcast.

TheDock22 says:

Re: Re: Re:

I love Notepad. I build all my javascript, HTML, php, and perl applications using it. And I have to agree, while the google office applications are cool, they don’t compare with having a locally installed program.

Our internet at the office is hit and miss and we usually lose an hour of Internet access a week (usually on the weekends, but an occasionally business day). Even being down an hour without access to word, excel, etc. would cause grief for us since we use those applications the most. Beside, most businesses do not mind shelling out the cost for Microsoft Office.

For home users though, offering a free version of the software would be extremely useful. I wouldn’t mind it having ads, I mean most of the free software I use has ads. I just ignore them and use the software. I think this is a good step for Microsoft.

Jason Buck (user link) says:

AIR, GEARS and Other things (OFFLINE)

Google and Adobe are working on Web Based Applications that can function both on and offline.

Once these technologies are primed and ready for mainstream, Microsoft will really have something to worry about.

Of course they will probably incorporate (steal) the technology after it is ready, but until then, they will have you believe they aren’t interested in it.

It will kind of be like Al Gore inventing the internet. Microsoft will come out with some new (stolen) web-based technology that will work on and off line. Considering they control the OS, it is more likely that they will embed something in their next OS that enables this to work perfectly with OWC (Office Web Components). They can deliver their applications (Excel and Access via OWC) to the web to display data, but the user can’t edit it yet. Once they figure out how to edit the data, they will be the leaders again.


Jason Buck

Fred says:

In my personal, entirely subjective experience, both Google Docs and OpenOffice are orders of magnitude slower than MS Office on my PC. OpenOffice is OK once it gets going, but operations are still slower. The user experience is just not as good. Would I prefer to save a couple hundred bucks? Of course – but until the experience is less painful, I’ll save Google docs for the occasional document I want to be able to access from everywhere, and OpenOffice for the laptop I don’t do real work on.

Software as a service is a nice idea, but until we have real, ubiquitous broadband at fiber speeds, I’ll keep paying for MS Office.

Fred says:

Oh, and until Google improves document security, it won’t take MS down. For example, images embedded in documents are publicly accessible, even if the document is not shared. That’s a really bad idea.

MS is not invincible – after all, everyone thought WordPerfect was unbeatable once upon a time. WP and its corporate masters got beaten because they were arrogant and stupid. Never underestimate the importance of arrogance and stupidity.

Dave says:


Thanks for all your great, informative work. Apart from helping me keep up to date on a wealth of topics, your articles about Microsoft always give me a big laugh!

Because they have killions in cash to burn through, they have the luxury of not needing any valid business plans, at least for awhile. Must be most excellent!! 🙂

Thanks again!

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

The biggest problem...

The biggest problem I see with web-based (or otherwise online-based) applications like this is – “What do you do when your net connection is down?”.

I’ve worked for two Fortune 500 companies with excellent IT resources, but on more than one occasion at each job I can remember one or more days when the network was down for whatever reason (e-mail viruses took down one network in the early days of e-mail viruses, a truck went off the road and knocked down the utility pole that carried our internet connection, etc.) and in each case there would have been thousands of employees cut off from being able to perform their normal tasks.

If you’re smart enough to save your current working files on your local drive instead of on the network, then you can pick up and keep working without network/internet access. If your files *and* your applications are both on the network/internet, then there isn’t a lot you can do.

At the second employer mentioned above, we weren’t allowed to save files locally, they had to stay on the network drives. When the network drive (raid array) got full, then everyone using that drive had to stop working until IT got around to either deleting files or adding a new drive to the array. If you were on a low-priority server and there were higher priority IT issues, then you may have to wait a day or more before they found time to fix the issue – but in the mean time they would take that drive off-line. That would leave my entire department sitting at our desks twiddling our thumbs and waiting for an e-mail from IT that the problem had been resolved. I still got paid the same, but that was a lot of wasted and paid for people-hours…

I sure won’t be signing up for an online-only tool any time soon…

bb says:

Fred – you’re living too much in the past/present and can’t see the future clearly. 3-5 years is an eternity in Internet-time and is more than enough time for Google to safely, reliably and successfully replicate the 20% of functionality in MS Office that >95% of users actually use. Just look how far Google Office has come in the past 12 months. Stay tuned.

Oliver – check out Google Gears.

Charles Griswold (user link) says:

Re: Silly

Office 2007 is a great tool. OpenOffice is a good tool.

Everything else that is free is crappy.

I disagree. I use OpenSUSE (a Linux distribution), which is free and comes with lots of free software. I am quite happy with it and don’t consider it to be at all crappy (except for the net-based installer, which indeed sucks like a turbocharged Hoover).

Kevin says:

Total joke

OK, let’s face it, Microsoft Office is pretty much the near-universal standard for productivity software. People and businesses (or at least the overwhelming majority of them) want Office. Those who might be willing to make do with something other than Office will usually still require something that is at least compatible with Office. So what market will this Works thing fulfill? If people are going to use free productivity software then why would they choose an ad-supported version of a Microsoft application that isn’t compatible with Office when they could have a totally free and ad-free application that is compatible with Office? OpenOffice wins this one, no doubt about it.

Unless, of course, they plan on bundling it for free on every Dell/Gateway/etc PC sold. I noticed that the last laptop that I bought had a 60-day eval of Office 2007 pre-installed. When that expired I bet a lot of people went to OpenOffice instead of buying Office 2007, so maybe that’s what they want to avoid.

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