Microsoft eyes making desktop apps free

Even as Microsoft readies a host of new ad-supported online services to battle rivals, the software maker has been mulling a plan to offer free, ad-supported versions of some of its desktop products, CNET News.com has learned.

Although no specific plans have been made, executives within Microsoft are examining whether it makes sense to release ad-supported versions of products such as Works, Money, or even the Windows operating system itself, according to internal documents seen by CNET News.com.

"As Web advertising grows and consumer revenues shrink, we need to consider creating ad-supported versions of our software," two Microsoft researchers and an MSN employee wrote in a paper presented to company executives earlier this year. The document was prepared for one of Microsoft's twice-yearly Thinkweek exercises, in which Chairman Bill Gates and other top executives gather to consider potential new avenues for the company to follow.

Microsoft officials confirmed the authenticity of the paper, dated Winter 2005, but declined to comment on its contents. However, a Microsoft source characterized the paper as an internal brainstorming exercise.

"It is simply an exploration of different models of delivering software to customers," the source said. "It is not policy, it is not a plan, and no decisions have been made--it's just some thoughts from our research and business units."

News source: News.com

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