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Report: Microsoft Considering Free, Ad-Supported Windows

According to a report in CNET, Microsoft is considering releasing a version of Windows that would be free to the public, but would include advertisements. The company is also considering ad-supported versions of Works and Money, according to CNET.

"As Web advertising grows and consumer revenues shrink, we need to consider creating ad-supported versions of our software," an internal memo presented to Chairman Bill Gates earlier this year reads. Microsoft officials later told CNET that while the document was authentic, it didn't represent any concrete plans but was rather part of a brainstorming session.

"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," a source told CNET's Ina Fried. Recently, however, Microsoft unveiled a wide ranging series of services, dubbed Windows Live and Office Live, which will connect with the company's most popular products. Apparently, the company is concerned that competitors such as Sun and Google will launch free, ad-supported versions of the Star Office 8 office productivity suite, which competes with Microsoft Office. If that happens, Microsoft researchers warn, Microsoft will need to consider responding in kind.

Let me throw out a fairly obvious though here: A few weeks ago, I complained that Microsoft's mid-1990's spaz attack in the face of Netscape's perceived threat caused Microsoft to forever damage windows by bundling it with Internet Explorer. If Microsoft creates an ad-supported version of Windows in response to Google, the company will simply be responding in a similar manner and making Windows less valuable and viable as a result. For a company that claims to be an innovator, this sort of reactive product planning is counterproductive.

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