Microsoft Office is the market leader as far as office suites are concerned, despite its price I do not see it losing share or hurting the company the way Windows Vista appears to be at the moment. Still, there are other free applications out there, OpenOffice, Star Office, etc… attempting to make inroads into the market. That said, some people are willing to use the free or low-cost options instead of Office and accept the various quirks, differences, and incompatibilities.
I refer to the “other” office suites having quirks, differences, and incompatibilities because they are not the market leader… while popular amongst enthusiasts and cheapskates – in many ways they lack the same level of refinement offered by the Evil Empire known as Microsoft.
Competition is a good thing in that it only serves to drive innovation – with that in mind I propose that Microsoft release a version of Office 2007 that is free for personal and non-commercial use. I can’t imagine that the home market provides the crux of Microsoft’s revenue for the application suite; it would make sure that every home customer from the college student to the old fogie typing letters to the editor would have the best possible method of performing basic Office tasks. It’s not like Microsoft can’t afford the chance, after all they’ve already released a trial copy (which I use) that can be easily cracked (which I will not do, I’ll likely buy Office when the trial expires)…
So Microsoft, the onus is on you. Do you join the fray of free office suites, encouraging them to create a better product while encouraging your Office division to lessen the allure of these free alternatives? Chances are every machine would have a copy of office if Microsoft pulled this rabbit out of the hat.