Reports are swirling around the Web that Microsoft is considering releasing a Web-based version of Works, its stripped-down little brother to Office, to fend off the much-ballyhooed Google Office (whenever that actually happens).
Most business people know Works as the "free" Microsoft software that comes on many OEM systems, and for very small businesses and teachers, it certainly can cover word processing and spreadsheet needs.
Reuters is reporting that Alan Yates, the general manager of the MS group that runs Office and Works, says Redmond is considering various revenue models, including advertising and some sort of fee (we'd assume a subscription) as means to drive a version of Works released via the Live! online initiative.
We'd assume that a Web-based version of Works would offer comparable feature sets to Google's Writely, Google Spreadsheets, and any other productivity software that runs in a browser.
We are still trying to figure out why you would not just download an open source alternative like OpenOffice if you are really that concerned about breaking away from Microsoft Office and want to be able to work offline.
The one clear upside to Web-based productivity, the ability to easily share projects with coworkers, is a big selling point for the forthcoming Office 2007, so we have a hard time imagining Microsoft undercutting itself there with a free online Works.