The Next 10 Products On Microsoft's Chopping Block

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Photo: Flickr/trioculus

Ever since Microsoft‘s horrible 2009 fiscal year, which saw its first-ever revenue decline and layoffs of more than 5,000 employees, the company has been much more rigorous about shutting down failing products.The Kin smartphone, which was canceled a few weeks going on market, got the most notice.

But in the last eighteen months, Microsoft also killed the Windows Live Spaces blogging service, Encarta, Money and several small business accounting products, the OneCare antivirus and PC maintenance service, ResponsePoint VoIP for small businesses, and many other niche products.

Most recently, MediaWeek reported that it’s shutting down the Massive in-game advertising service as well.

Revenue growth returned in FY’10, and FY’11 is off to a good start, but stricter cost control has let the company increase earnings faster than revenue.

Microsoft is not about to return to the bad old days where failing, experimental, or duplicate products were allowed to ride free for years.

With that in mind, here are the next 10 Microsoft products with targets on their backs.

Live Meeting

Microsoft acquired this videoconferencing service with PlaceWare in 2003. But Office 365, the next version of Microsoft's online services for businesses, will instead offer videoconferencing through the Lync Online service, which is based on Microsoft's own technology. (It used to be called Communications Server.)

When Office 365 goes on sale next year, Live Meeting will stop accepting new customers for Live Meeting. Fade to black.

Silverlight (On The Web)

Earlier this year, reports emerged of an internal debate at Microsoft: should the company continue to push Silverlight, its proprietary competitor to Adobe's Flash, or embrace HTML5, which offers a standards-based way to accomplish the same kinds of interactive applications on the Web.

There's no question which side the Internet Explorer team is on: IE9's biggest selling point is support for HTML5.

At Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference last week, Server and Tools President Bob Muglia appeared to confirm that HTML5 won, telling ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley that the company's Sliverlight strategy has shifted. Muglia's in charge of Microsoft's developer strategy, and oversees Silverlight, so he'd know.

Silverlight will live on as the development platform for Windows Phone 7 apps, but the browser-based version will probably get minimal updates in the future, and don't expect to see Microsoft pushing Silverlight to Web developers as it has in the past.

Zune

Surface

Mediaroom

Mediaroom is the platform behind AT&T's U-Verse IPTV system and a handful of other systems in other countries, and it's some good qualities, like instant channel change and an on-screen channel guide that cable providers should envy.

But Microsoft hasn't signed up any big new customers or published subscriber numbers since 2008, when it passed 2 million. That's dwarfed by the 14.3 million subscribers to the Dish satellite network, and the cable companies have tens of millions more. IPTV isn't exactly taking the world by storm.

The Mediaroom product group hasn't had a senior-level leader since vice president Enrique Rodriguez left in early 2010, and his old boss, Robbie Bach, retired last month. No big leaders and no momentum equals no budget. Look for Microsoft to quietly fade this one out over the next couple of years.

Windows Mobile (Please!)

Hohm

Microsoft had big plans for Hohm, which is supposed to help consumers monitor and reduce their home energy usage. The company even announced partnerships with local utilities to provide actual energy usage through the site. But if you visit the site today, it simply offers a generic set of recommendations for houses in your neighbourhood. I can't find any way to connect information from my utility providers, Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light, to Hohm--even though both were among Hohm's original launch partners.

The Startup Business Accelerator group that created Hohm has already had a couple of its other products like ResponsePoint and MSN Direct (a service for smart watches) canceled in the last couple of years. Here's another one that will never leave beta status.

Atlas

Remember Microsoft's $6 billion acquisition of digital advertising firm aQuantive in 2007?

No? You're not alone--Microsoft itself seems to have forgotten it as well. It's already sold aQuantive's biggest asset, the Razorfish advertising and digital market agency, and it consolidated most of aQuantive's other technologies into its own first-party ad platforms (which advertisers use to buy space on Bing, MSN, and other Microsoft sites).

Former aQuantive execs have been fleeing since 2009: the most recent was Scott Howe, who was the vice president of the group containing Atlas. He left in early 2010, following Karl Siebrecht, Clark Kokich, Mike Galgon, and former aQuantive CEO Brian McAndrews out the door.

But the Atlas tool suite, which advertisers and agencies use to plan and track campaigns, is still hanging around like a phantom limb. How much longer can it possibly last?

Amalga

A few years ago, Microsoft decided it wanted a bigger presence in the fast-growing health care industry, so it bought a couple software systems that had been developed for managing hospitals. But with its long sales cycles and insanely complicated integration processes, this isn't really a great business for Microsoft--the company does best when it sells broad-use software (Windows, SQL, SharePoint nd the like) that can be tailored into an infinite number of vertical solutions by its partners.

In July, Microsoft announced it would discontinue one of these products, Amalga Health Information System, which was meant for new hospitals who could digitize all their records from the get-go. Look for the other products in this group to fade away as well.

Great Plains

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