Every product has its end. It is either replaced, upgraded or merged in with something else. Even Microsoft, a company that is notoriously generous and patient with letting a product gain momentum, is willing to pull the plug when necessary.
Here are some of the most notable Microsoft products that have met their demise.
This was probably the biggest product to go to the graveyard in 2013. Microsoft announced the end for TechNet due to rampant abuse and piracy. The company started TechNet in 1998 to sell IT professionals perpetual licenses to Windows client and server operating systems. People abused the system for years before Microsoft had enough. Users are now being migrated to the MSDN network.
Microsoft did a lot of consolidation this year, and its Live products got folded into a lot of other programs. Live Mail and Hotmail were folded into Outlook.com, Live Mesh was sunset in favor of SkyDrive, and Live Messenger was axed at the beginning of the year with existing accounts being transferred to Skype.
It came out in February and was gone by October. But with good reason. The Surface Pro 2 tablet is a huge improvement over the original Surface Pro, with the company claiming it has up to 75% better battery life and 20% better performance than the original. Now they just need to sell some.
Windows Small Business Server
With the release of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft announced it would no longer release a small business version of the OS. The company is encouraging small business owners to take their needs to Microsoft’s hosted cloud solutions instead. So you can either move to Azure or deploy Server 2012, Exchange Server and Sharepoint. Which would you prefer?
Microsoft first delivered Encarta on CD-ROM in 1993 as part of the early wave of multimedia products for PCs, before adding a website as well. In response to criticism against Wikipedia’s dubious veracity, Microsoft sought credibility by acquiring other encyclopedias, including Collier’s Encyclopedia and New Merit Scholar’s Encyclopedia. The company had tried to buy Encyclopedia Britannica but was rebuffed.
Encarta just could not keep up with Wikipedia and fell totally behind. User changes and updates were enabled in 2006, but only after Encarta staff approved them. The result? Encarta Premium, the high-end product, boasted 62,000 articles compared to Wikipedia’s 1 million-plus. In March 2009, Microsoft announced it was discontinuing both the Encarta disc and online versions.
This upset a lot of people because of how it was handled. Microsoft Flight Simulator was one of the company’s oldest products, first hitting the market in 1978 from game publisher subLOGIC before Microsoft acquired the company in 1982.
Flight Simulator had an extremely loyal fanbase and a huge mod/add-on market. These folks were really upset when Microsoft just killed the game, rather than trying to find a buyer to keep it going. But with the economic downturn in 2008, Microsoft started looking at its assets, and in early 2009, the games division took a big hit, with FlightSim being one of them.
Zune was a me-too product from Microsoft that came way too late. Normally, being late to market is not a hindrance for Microsoft. It’s frequently late to market, and that hadn’t been a problem before. With the Zune, Microsoft had a few interesting ideas, like sharing songs with other Zunes, but Zune had no chance against the iPod. Microsoft introduced it in 2007 and killed it in 2011, but parts of Zune live on. The software player is used in Xbox Live and Windows Phone 8.
Kin was barely born, as Microsoft killed the product literally weeks after launch. The Kin phones were ugly little things meant to be low-cost PCs aimed at the younger market, people who might not be able to afford a smartphone. Engadget did a good post-mortem on the whole deal, detailing how a complete OS rewrite and a focus on higher prices did in the Kin. Microsoft would put its efforts behind Windows Phone.
Windows Home Server
Bill Gates introduced this new home product at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, and it shipped that year. Based on Windows Server 2003 R2, it was meant for homes or small offices with multiple connected PCs, offering file sharing, automated backups, print server, and remote access. However, there was no real push from Microsoft or the OEMs. Microsoft would only sell it through OEMs. You couldn’t just download it and install it on an old PC, which is what was so helpful to Linux in its early days. With such a middling effort, it went nowhere and was killed off last year.
Inspired by AppleWorks, a nifty little suite that originally shipped on the Apple II computer (I owned a copy, too), Microsoft shipped its first version, Works for DOS, in 1987. At the time, it was one giant app. Your word processor, spreadsheet and database all ran from the same application, just like AppleWorks. Microsoft would modernize it and usually offer it as part of a software bundle with new PCs for years. Finally, in 2009, Microsoft ended the project, replacing it with Office 2010 Starter Edition.
Originally developed by Vermeer Technologies, Microsoft acquired this rapid HTML development tool in 1996 and made it a part of Windows NT Server, which included the Internet Information Server web server software, and eventually the Office suite. FrontPage and IIS were very proprietary and really locked code into Microsoft products. Front- and back-end software did not port easily, and Microsoft was criticized for that. As IIS and FrontPage matured, Microsoft moved away from the vendor lock.
In 2006, Microsoft announced that FrontPage would eventually be replaced by two far more advanced web development products: SharePoint Designer, for business professionals to design SharePoint-based applications, and Expression Web targeted at the web design professional for the creation of feature-rich websites. Microsoft discontinued Microsoft FrontPage that year.
This one didn’t last long. Six years after its launch, Microsoft announced that Expression Studio would no longer be a standalone product. Expression Blend was integrated into Visual Studio, while Expression Web and Expression Design are now available as free products, although it got no technical support, and Microsoft doesn’t plan to release new versions of Expression Web or Design.
Microsoft didn’t conquer every market it targeted. One area it could never crack was home finance. Intuit, maker of Quicken, has ruled that roost for decades. Microsoft tried to acquire the firm but was met with significant government resistance. So it tried competing with Quicken, with no luck. From 1991 to 2009, Microsoft spun its wheels with Money, with very low market share to show for its efforts.
Open source supporters were cautiously optimistic that Microsoft might be embracing open source religion a decade ago with things like Port 25 and projects like IronPython and IronRuby. Well, scratch the last one. No official announcement was made, but word started leaking out when a former employee who worked on it discussed in blogs posts that no one was left working on the project.
IronRuby died from abandonment, and there is some skepticism that Microsoft is making any real effort with it. IronRuby is maintained by volunteers, and its revisions have been very slow and minor in recent years.
Windows Live OneCare
Microsoft’s first attempt at a security suite, OneCare was based on Reliable Antivirus (RAV), which Microsoft purchased from GeCAD Software Srl in 2003. The software offered disk cleanup and defragmentation, a full virus scan, backup notification, checking for updates and a firewall. However, the software took a pounding from critics and security experts, many of whom rated the AV scanner very low, near the bottom in tests, and said the firewall allowed for too many potential exceptions. And Microsoft was selling this for $59. It abandoned the software with the release of Windows 7 and introduced Microsoft Security Essentials, which does a better job overall at malware detection.
Xbox One DRM
This was almost Microsoft’s suicide. Microsoft initially proposed DRM for the Xbox One that included mandatory Internet connections and restricted game sharing with friends, plus a requirement that the Kinect motion detection camera be connected at all times. This was met with howls from furious gamers and promises of a boycott.
Inside of a month, Microsoft relented on everything. The result is that Xbox One vaulted to No. 1 on Amazon presales, ahead of PlayStation 4. Both consoles are expected to sell a few million units when they ship next month.