The software giant said it would make ad-supported copies of the Works package available within “months”.
As a way of competing with OpenOffice.org I cannot help but see this as doomed to failiure. For one, slight performance hits excluded, OpenOffice.org is a superior package to Microsoft Works, having a feature set which for most people will be comparable to that of Office. Plus there is a significant difference between free and ad-supported, particularly in an office suite where you do not wish to be distracted by garish advertisments. While I assume MS will eschew the worst of the webs banner ads, and exclude pop-ups, the fact of the matter is that there is a fundamental discrepency between what ads are trying to achieve and was an interface is trying to achieve. One should be subtle and unobtrusive, the other is designed to draw your attention.
Works also lacks one of the major advantages Office has over OO.org, that of compatibility. While this has improved in recent years, and MS have at last made symbolic gestures towards open-standards, the fact of the matter remains that Works isn’t Office.
Now I’m sure there will be people who take advantage of this offer, but they will largely be existing Works users, who will either not have heard of OpenOffice.org, or don’t want to learn a new system. It will do little to draw the customers they are trying to retain.