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Microsoft updates Works

The software giant releases a new version of Works, its budget software package for consumers that's widely used by PC makers.

Microsoft on Tuesday launched a new version of Works Suite, its budget software package for consumers.

Works combines a standard version of Word, the Redmond, Wash., company's widespread word processor, with specialty spreadsheet and database applications and consumer software such as the Encarta encyclopedia and Money financial software.

The significance of Works has faded recently, thanks to forces inside and outside Microsoft. While Works was once the standard choice for PC makers to load onto new consumer PCs, major manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard and Gateway dumped Works last year in favor of Corel's WordPerfect for their low-end PCs.

At about the same time, Microsoft debuted a low-priced academic version of Office, its main software package for businesses. Office includes more elaborate spreadsheet, database and e-mail applications than Works but was significantly more expensive until the introduction of its academic version. While licensing for that version is restricted to students and teachers, Microsoft has done little to enforce those provisions, allowing the package to become the leading retail version of Office.

Works Suite 2004 includes Word 2002, the current version of the word processor that will be replaced in Office next month with the release of Office 2003. The package also includes Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004, Money Standard 2004, Picture It Photo Premium 9 and Streets & Trips 2004. The product is available now for $100.