Microsoft is reportedly taking a step into the ad-supported software business by rolling out a limited pilot of an ad-supported version of its Microsoft Works low-end productivity application over the next few months.

"Consumers, if they're given a choice of paying for something, or getting an ad-subsidized version of it, as long as it's not intrusive, and it helps them, there is an opportunity to consider whether that might be a model that works in certain applications and test the waters," Microsoft chief software architect said.
In the face of rising competition from Google and other Internet rivals offering their suite of business software services supported by advertising or subscriptions, it should come as no surprise to see the largest software maker interested in testing ad-supported software. Microsoft plans to preinstall Works on computers and display advertisements stored in cache, which will refresh when the user is connected to the Internet. Privacy advocates will be glad to know that Microsoft won't be parsing the contents of Works documents to deliver ads, though they have applied for a patent to do just that.

The Works application consists of word processor, calendar, dictionary, project organizer and spreadsheet applets along with a personal database module called Works Database. The latest paid version, Works 9.0, was launched this week for an estimated retail price of $39.95. Microsoft has not disclosed either which PC makers will distribute the ad-supported version during the pilot period or the markets for the test program.