With all these interesting apps available, my assumption was that Microsoft would take the hint and allow Works to slowly fade away, to be dug up by curious six-year-olds who wanted to check out what was on Grandpa's computer, or by sociologists studying the phenomenon of dumbed-down software. But I was underestimating Microsoft's tendency to try to keep its properties in the public consciousness.
According to a recent news story, Microsoft is planning to offer a free, ad-supported version of Works in selected countries. So I'm trying to figure out why Microsoft's people would think that scads of eager users would want to download an already low-productivity app with advertising added.
Well, if consumers aren't looking for a less-expensive version of Works, I'll bet Microsoft's hardware partners are. According to the article, Works 8.5 costs about $50; while it probably costs manufacturers a lot less to load it onto their new PCs, it can still add up over several thousand systems. With the ability to load a fully-free version of a Microsoft application, vendors can subtract a few dollars from their costs without affected the perceived value of the product.
So when you get your spanking new Vista-capable machine next year, odds are that it will include a spanking new version of Works that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, calendar -- and advertising. Enjoy.