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Recently, Microsoft pulled the plug on WordPad after 28 years, asking users to switch to Microsoft Word and NotePad instead. In the past 48 years, the tech giant has killed over 148 of its products and services. Some of the popular ones include Zo, Office Remote, Lumia, MSN Messenger, Music, Windows Live, and Virtual PC, to name a few.
Here is a list of 10 popular products and services that Microsoft has withdrawn over the years.
Technet was discontinued in 2013 because of rampant piracy and abuse of the platform. Microsoft found that some users were exploiting their TechNet subscriptions for purposes beyond the intended evaluation and testing, which led to an unsustainable situation for the company.
Started in 1998, TechNet offered IT professionals perpetual licenses for Windows client and server operating systems. It also provided subscribers with access to a wide range of resources, including technical documentation, software downloads, updates, patches, and a knowledge base. The users were migrated to the MSDN network.
After Windows Live Mail was terminated in 2014, all Microsoft email services were moved to Outlook.com. In 2020, Microsoft took down the Games for Windows Live download page, and the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant was also eliminated from their servers. Consequently, the online installer for Games for Windows – LIVE ceased to function correctly, leading to installation failures.
Microsoft took steps to consolidate its Live products. Live Mail and Hotmail were merged into Outlook.com, Live Mesh was replaced by SkyDrive, and Live Messenger was terminated, with accounts moved to Skype.
Microsoft discontinued its digital assistant app Cortana in August this year, as the company pivoted to more contemporary AI innovations such as Bing Chat and other AI-driven productivity features integrated into Windows and its web browser Edge.
A support page validates the conclusion of Cortana as a standalone app within Windows, commencing in August 2023. The company also confirmed that the page was initially released in June but chose not to elaborate further on its rationale beyond the details provided on the page itself.
In June 2022, Microsoft made updates to both Windows and its website to formally mark the end of Internet Explorer, a browser that first appeared on Windows 95 PCs 26 years ago. When users attempt to download or use this browser, Microsoft gently steers them towards Edge, its newly designated default browser.
The demise of Internet Explorer didn’t come as a surprise, and for the vast majority of internet users, it was not particularly inconvenient. Microsoft had begun phasing out its old web portal the previous year. In essence, the world had collectively acknowledged its obsolescence well before Microsoft officially confirmed it.
Microsoft’s multimedia encyclopedia, launched in 1993, fell behind Wikipedia in content and failing to keep up, finally stopped in 2009. Only heard of by internet users in the 2000s, Encarta was a good option back when encyclopedias were expensive. It was one of Microsoft’s well known products and also its biggest source of revenue. But after Wikipedia, which was free and impressively up to date, Encarta began to see a steady decline in users.
The Windows Phone was introduced in October 2010 as an attempt to merge the Windows Mobile and Zune product lines into a single device similar to the iPhone. It was discontinued in 2017, with support ending in 2020, making it the last year of Microsoft’s support for Windows 10 mobile devices. This was because despite efforts for Windows Bridge to run iOS and Android code, Windows 10 Mobile faced an uphill battle. It initially ran on the Windows Phone 7 operating system, using the Metro design language and Windows CE as its foundation. However, it faced challenges, including the lack of compatibility with Windows Mobile apps and rushed development.
The Windows Phone struggled due to the differences in screen technology and app coding between Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7. While Android and iOS dominated the market with capacitive touchscreens, the Windows Phone lagged in features and app availability. Developers were more inclined to create apps for Android and iOS, which had a larger user base.
Introduced in 2007, the Zune faced fierce competition from the iPod and was discontinued in 2011. However, parts of it live on in Xbox Live and Windows Phone 8. The company said Zune devices will still work and so will the saved playlists. However, there are hardly any Zunes available today and recently Microsoft announced a giveaway of the device. r/Zune, with about 10,500 subscribers, may be the last place on the internet talking about the device.
Microsoft Reader, launched in 2000, allowed users to read eBooks on Windows devices. However, in 2012, Microsoft announced its discontinuation without providing specific reasons. The app had received minimal updates, and with the rise of competitors like Amazon’s Kindle, it lost relevance. While existing users could still access the application and .lit materials on their devices, new .lit content purchases from retailers ceased in 2011.
More recently, in 2018, they chose to discontinue Document Viewer and PDF Reader apps. The company intends to re-route users into using Edge which has features to support the reader.
Skype for Business
Skype for Business Online and Business Server retired after the 2017 announcement. The company’s intention was to transition to Microsoft Teams, which offers comprehensive collaboration tools. It was a missed business opportunity, and Zoom swooped in to take the centre stage during the pandemic though Teams made up for it. Microsoft has transitioned to Microsoft Teams as the primary collaboration platform since 2019, combining chat, meetings, calling, and more in one place.
Skype for Business Online was discontinued on July 31, 2021, while the server edition will receive security support until October 14, 2025.
Microsoft announced that it will shut down Microsoft Academic in 2021. It was the second largest academic search engine after Google Scholar. Though it didn’t affect many, computer scientists, meta-researchers, librarians, and start-ups were affected as they had been building an ecosystem of information services around the database.
Microsoft’s history with literature search tools isn’t new. They had a project called Microsoft Academic Search, which ran from 2009 to 2012 and was later revamped as Microsoft Academic in 2016. This shift reflects Microsoft’s use of scholarly data for testing big data and AI technologies, potentially extending to knowledge extraction from Office 365 documents.