Microsoft stealth-launches ad-funded Works office suite

A cheap version of Microsoft Office codenamed Albany may still be a few months away, but the Redmond-based company seems convinced that ad-funded business applications could help it achieve even further penetration in the SMB market.

A Sponsored Edition of Microsoft Works has been launched to this effect and is currently being tested in the United States, France, Canada, Poland and the United Kingdom, countries where Works' big brother, Microsoft Office is firmly present.

A Microsoft Spokesman says that the company is trialling a number of ways to generate revenues and a Sponsored application appears to be one of these..

Computer manufacturers like Packard Bell, Dell and Sony will offer Works SE pre-bundled with some of their computers, as a free substitution to the current version which costs PC Makers around £1 per unit and will not be available for download to end-users.

It is still unknown whether Microsoft will be offering an option to buy a full version of Works if the customer disable the adverts which will appear in the program window when working in a document.

Of course, there are other routes that users can choose; IBM for example has released a fully fledged Business Office suite called Lotus Symphony, while the Open Source, OpenOffice.org is a capable workhorse as well.