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Microsoft kills MSN Encarta

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Microsoft is pulling the plug on its MSN Encarta encyclopedia websites and software, following Wikipedia's obliteration of the online reference market.

In a message posted on the MSN Encarta website, Microsoft said the sites worldwide will be discontinued on October 31, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be stayed until the end of December.

Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software will stop being sold by June 2009.

From the posting:

Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedia and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.

Which is a bit of an understatement. According to internet tracker Hitwise, Wikipedia accounts for 97 per cent of all online encyclopedia visits from US internet users. MSN Encarta takes a very distant second with only 1.27 per cent of the market, and Encyclopedia.com is third at 0.76 per cent.

This may not be the end of Microsoft's reference offerings entirely, however. The company wrote that it believes the assets it's accrued with Encarta can be used in developing "future technology solutions."

Current subscribers to MSN Encarta premium services as of April 30 will receive a refund for services paid beyond that date. They will still have access to Encarta premium services until October, however.

The software maker has been busy axing its less appreciated departments in recent months to save costs, including its consumer antivirus product OneCare, subscription security software package Equipt, and even its successful and long-running Flight Simulator software. ®

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