After Microsoft corporate VP Satya Nadella let the cat out of the bag last week, Microsoft’s PR folks belatedly came up with a statement yesterday revealing a pilot for a new free, ad-supported version of Works called Microsoft Works SE 9:
Microsoft Works SE 9.0 will be bundled for free as pre-installed software on computers sold in select countries. … Customers using Works SE 9.0 will see ads both when they are online and offline, as the software will ship with a set of cached ads. When a user is connected to the Internet, new ads will get served from the same display advertising platform used for Live.com and MSN properties.
I was right about what the service was in this “Software plus Service,” but it does raise a question how as to how much like Web ads these ads really are.
Unlike typical ads online, Works ads won’t be completely contextual in that Microsoft won’t be parsing the contents of Works documents to deliver ads, though Microsoft has applied for a patent in that space. Instead, they’ll be relevant to Works users, as determined by Microsoft research into who Works users are and how they commonly use the software. For example, Microsoft knows people use Works to manage home budgets and plan vacations and schedules, so ads relating to those topics may be relevant. Ads will be served in the lower third of a taskbar that shows up on the right-hand side of Works applications.
That’s a privacy complaint headache avoided at the cost of lower returns.
There’s no word on exactly which OEMs and countries will be participating in the Microsoft Works SE 9 pilot and if it sounds like I’m critical of it – I’m not. Works has always been useful for new computer users, even if apparently unprofitable, and this is a good way to extend the life of the existing desktop application code base and perhaps return it to the black. Is it a harbinger for real Microsoft Web apps to come? Microsoft won’t comment despite rumors specifically involving Works.