For a very long time, one of the greatest hits of search engines sending visitors to Roumazeilles.net has been “free download word”. Now, we are nearly in position to offer another advice than the usual Go download OpenOffice.
I still consider OpenOffice as the best replacement for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but new opportunities are appearing. First, Google announced the availability of Google Spreadsheets and Writely. While still in beta stage, these applications are downloaded on the run from the web freely and will be supported by advertisment in the application as soon as the beta-stage is off.
Feeling the heat of the competition no doubt, Microsoft revealed that it was considering seriously the possibility of putting Works (too often not considered by buyers of MS-Office) on the list of freely (and legally) available application. They would use the same business model of including ad banners in the application itself.
For the moment, it is difficult to assume the success of such a strategy. Google is offering a very simplified product (Writely does not include in its free word processor important goodies such as mail merge or WordArt; And Google Spreadsheets still does not have the ability to create graphics) and Microsoft is probably just trying to kick Google while it’s still young with Works which has always been their cheap solution to counter the arguments against Word and Excel.
Furthermore, it is not decided yet if you – the user – will accept the presence of advertisment inside the application. I know that the Opera web browser has long been ads-supported (I did not really mind the presence of the banner at the top of the browser window), but the arrival of ad-free Mozilla Firefox forced them to remove completely this feature. So, advertisment may stay as a temporary option in the strategy of a software developer and basing all your business model on that may be very difficult and dangerous.
So, for the time being and probably for the near future too, this is still Go download OpenOffice (remember that it is also available freely for Mac OS X (under X11)).