After several years of lingering in the shadow of Wikipedia, Microsoft has decided to close down its once very popular Encarta website and will also stop selling Student and Encarta Premium software products.
On a statement on MSN's Encarta website, Microsoft pins the reason behind the demise of its encyclopedia on the fact that people " today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past".
All Encarta websites with the exception of Japan will be discontinued on the 31st of October 2009 with the Japanese version closing down on the 31st of December. The production of Microsoft Encarta software products will stop in June 2009.
Microsoft will continue to offer technical support for software products until 2012 and users who paid for a subscription with Encarta Premium will be offered a refund.
The gap between Wikipedia and Encarta has increased tremendously. The fre online encyclopedia is now ranked 7th worldwide according to online rating website Alexa, just behind MSN.com group of websites which comprises Encarta.com and many other Micosoft.com online properties.
The culling is the latest in Microsoft drive to refocus on core business and like its antivirus application, Onecare, Encarta was a consumer product that was on the decline.
Equipt and MS flight simulator were also given the boot in the last few months. It is also likely that other consumer services and products could be reviewed in the forthcoming months.
Microsoft is not alone in refocusing its resources elsewhere. Google has already announced a number of job cuts and has scaled back or closed down a number of online services like Jaiku or Google Notebook but launched Knol, another online encyclopedia.
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Rest in Peace Encarta. As a teenager, I thoroughly enjoyed going through the twin-CDROM version of Microsoft's encyclopedia when it was launched. Just like its arrival sparked the slow death of paper-based encyclopedia, Encarta has also succumbed to another disruptive paradigm that takes the process of knowledge management even further. Next on the way out, we guess, could be Microsoft Works.
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