Microsoft Works 8Microsoft is taking a new approach to Microsoft Works 9 by offering it for free (was $49.95), but with advertisements. The suite of applications that come with the Works are an address book, calendar, database (like Excel), dictionary, PowerPoint Viewer, Word (basic functionality), and templates. Doesn’t sound too bad, huh?

Mary Jo Foley was the first to announce that an ad-supported version of Microsoft Works is coming, and she heard it straight from Satya Nadella who is the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Search & Advertising Platform Group. Although Microsoft Works 9 hasn’t been released yet, it looks like it will be pretty soon. File sharing networks, such as The Pirate Bay, have had Works 9 posted since yesterday, and by this time there are plenty of people sharing it.

I didn’t download Works 9 (which at this point would be considered illegal since Microsoft hasn’t released it), but I quickly began thinking whether Microsoft was going to make it look more like Office 2007. I did some searching and came across this support site which provided some insight as to what you can expect. Here are the things that I noticed:

  • Office 2007 file formats will now be supported, but the stupid thing is that they still let you save a Works document in the Works file format. For goodness sakes Microsoft, remove that option! People don’t know how to open a WPS or XLR file (which are the document and database file formats, respectively, for Works).
  • The instructions on performing a mail merge make it sound as though Works 9 will retain the classic File Menu structure, instead of adopting the Ribbon from Office 2007.
  • XP 32-bit and 64-bit are both supported, but to my surprise only the 32-bit version of Vista is supported. Not to mention you need 256MB of memory if running it on XP, but you need 1GB if running it on Vista Basic and 1.5GB on Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate. What!?! 1.5GB of memory for Microsoft Works? And according to the page these are the minimum requirements, not the recommended ones!

I have never been a die-hard fan for Microsoft Works, and I’ve hated it for more reasons than I’ve loved it. If people ever told me that they were using Microsoft Works I frequently pointed them in the direction of OpenOffice, where you can do much more at no cost (and no ads). Unless Microsoft really did some great things with the Works Suite I don’t think that my opinion will be changing, but I won’t make my judgment until it is officially released in final form.

I’m really curious as to how they plan on implementing the ads into Microsoft Works. I’m guessing it will be something placed in a toolbar towards the top of the screen, or a big banner ad along the side. What happens when a user isn’t connected to the Internet? Will the ads still be served? Your computer will more than likely be reporting back to Microsoft quite frequently when connected to the Internet, and if you don’t like the idea of that you probably shouldn’t use the software when it is released.

Is Microsoft doing this to compete with the free online suites, such as Zoho and Google Docs? Do you think it is going to be successful, or will Works continue to be a flop?

Microsoft Works Homepage (not yet updated to version 9)