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Microsoft to Replace Works With 'Office 2010 Starter'

One of the older products in Microsoft's stable will be put out to pasture next year when the company ships the next version of its Office productivity suite: Microsoft Works, its low-end, somewhat-simplified bundle of word processing, spreadsheet, database and calendar tools.

Works -- which dates back to the days of DOS -- has shown up as a freebie on, it seems, nearly every name-brand Windows PC shipped in the United States over the past 15 years, but its actual use has been a lot lower. Most people use Microsoft's full-fledged Office bundle -- or, in recent years, such free alternatives as Google's Google Docs Web-based applications or the free, open-source

So last week, the company quietly announced that it would drop Works next year and instead offer PC manufacturers a free, ad-supported Office 2010 Starter.

Starter 2010 will arguably be just as cut-down as Works: It will include only versions of Word and Excel, leaving out PowerPoint and Outlook. But because it will feature "basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents" in those word-processing and spreadsheet tools, it will at least put an end to the long-running issue of Works users unintentionally sharing files in Works format with people running Office.

At the same time, though, Office 2010 will also feature a free, Web-based version. So Office Starter 2010 could wind up going as unused as those bundled copies of Works do today.

What's your prediction? And when Works is gone, will you miss it? Please share your remembrances, if any, in the comments ...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 13, 2009; 11:43 AM ET
Categories:  Productivity , Windows  
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I have memories of Works, but not any fond ones. The incompatible file formats were inexcusable. Microsoft's making the right move, but I wonder why it took them so long to make it.

Posted by: bokamba | October 13, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

“Retype it in Word!” That’s what I’d say to anyone who used it instead of MS Office in my work environment. Works stuff was always impossible to share or edit. Our computers were maintained by a bunch of “geek” types; they always dumped Works from our computers. I always thought Works was about as useful as ‘Paint’ and made those who used it at home susceptible to colleague scorn. The boss would always say, “Those are some good ideas, too bad I can’t read it!”

Posted by: ummhuh1 | October 13, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I have used WORKS as a home alternative for years and still do. Treated as an upgraded form of NOTEBOOK the program is very usefull. Sounds like this move is one of convience for Microsoft.

Posted by: frankmedoff | October 14, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

This is a cure in search of a disease. For those who don't have to worry about compatibility with computing at work -- like my retired parents and in-laws -- this is one more come-on to try and get people to "upgrade" to Office 2010 at a substantial price (I'm guessing that Office 2010 costs as much as my father-in-law's netbook) or to settle for something less than they had to start with: advertising-supported (read: annoying as hell) versions of fewer functions. Not to mention them having to learn that newfangled Ribbon interface for Office. Trying to get them to migrate to a locally-installed open-source solution like OpenOffice will not make life better for them -- sledgehammer for fly-swatting. Google Docs would be my first choice for them, or MAYBE Office Live.

I have read in other press reports that Office 2010 Starter will come with the full monty Office 2010 installables IN CASE the user wants to activate it by buying a license. In other words, more hard disk bloatware, analogous to the "trial version" of Office 2007 that comes on most new PCs now.

I remember how much fun it was getting them from Internet Explorer 6 to Firefox. I haven't dared to try Chrome or Safari out on them yet. Office 2010 Starter should come with 100 hours of free telephone tech support for any Works user.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | October 14, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

The six CD jewel case from the Works Suite 99 is still useful. All my emergency stuff travels with me on vacations, etc. Haven't yet graduated to a flash drive for that.

Posted by: Geezer4 | October 16, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I'll miss Works. It was old so it handled more obscure file formats. You could use Works to bring a file into RTF, and then open it in Word.

As for Office, MS has relentlessly tried to get people to keep paying for it. The O2007 redesign added no new features, just a new, less-user friendly interface on top of the same old program that incorporates a new file format. Fewer and fewer of us are drinking the Kool-Aid. So I'll pass on any Office 2010 Starter. After how MS handled the shift from O2003 to O2007, I'll watch with great interest the adoption rates for O2010.

Posted by: gbooksdc | October 17, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

OpenOffice is better and cheaper (= free).

Posted by: jamshark70 | October 18, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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