Software giant Microsoft is to test out a free, ad-supported version of its Works desktop productivity suite, which has been largely overshadowed by Microsoft Office.
The move is clearly a response to Google’s online word processing and spreadsheet offerings, which are made available for free by embedding advertisements in the application. However, because it is not an online application, ad-enabled Works will download advertisements while the user is online, and then display them when the software is in use.
The company says that it is working with (as yet undisclosed) PC manufacturers to ensure that the free version of Works, which normally retails at around £20, is embedded in machines when sold.
Instead of a positive strategic move, this announcement seems defensive. If users already have ad-enabled, entry-level desktop tools on their PCs, they would have little reason to sign-up for Google’s service.
Although Google’s search engine and email products are popular, it has yet to establish itself as a respected applications provider. By effectively making Works free, Microsoft has made it just a little bit harder for Google to do so.