Tech

Check out all the products Microsoft has murdered since 1992

Microsoft is one of the most valuable companies in the world. What started with the DOS and Windows operating systems has grown into a company involved in gaming, robotics, agriculture, augmented reality and more. (You can pursue a lot of new ideas when you employ 180,000 people.)

But inevitably, Microsoft killed countless products on its way to global dominance. And you can see a long list of these products on the website Killed by Microsoft. It’s a sequel to Killed by Google, done in exactly the same style (its creator, Fabiano Riccardi, built on Cory Ogden’s original project). These “Killed by” sites are a fun but informative way to skim over the products that time has forgotten, as each dead product is adorned with its own tombstone and link to Wikipedia to learn more.

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[Screenshot: Killed by Microsoft]

To be honest, Killed by Microsoft doesn’t include every product the company has iced since its inception in 1975. The most notable recent absence is Tay, the racist AI who got angry on Twitter in 2016. The list is shorter than it could be. In particular, it does not contain several discontinued Versions of Windows released over the years (not even the Face-Plant, which was the Metro design language of Windows 8, a shallow overhaul so hated that Microsoft forced it to bring back his famous start button). You also won’t see the many Xboxes on the list or iterations of the HoloLens AR headset.

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[Screenshot: Microsoft]

Even so, the list includes 70 products Microsoft has discontinued since 1992, making for quite a stroll down memory lane — while providing plenty of stops your memory likely missed entirely. And while some of those stops are chilling, many portray Microsoft as a company ahead of its time.

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[Screenshots: Microsoft/Wiki Commons, Flickr user Aaron Parecki]

To take comic chat (1996 to 1999). This was basically another desktop text chat software, like the popular AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) of the time. But instead of just using words, Comic Chat actually turned written text into comic panels. It didn’t just put words in speech bubbles; his characters had postures and facial expressions that added emotion to your words (for example, you could make your character laugh by typing “LOL”).

Comic Chat may not have dropped AIM, which was the biggest messenger of the era. But you can see how many of his ideas were implemented over a decade later. Today, Bitmoji folks reenact your words on Snapchat (Bitmoji itself originally started out as a customizable online comic book), and Apple’s Memoji mascots are full-motion cartoon avatars for iMessages.

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[Photo: Will Ireland/T3 Magazine/Future/Getty Images]

Another product that was ahead of its time was the Kinect, a body-tracking camera developed for Xbox that could listen for voice commands. We wrote a long retrospective on Kinect when it retired in 2017, and while it didn’t woo the gaming market like Microsoft intended, we can see how its core technologies actually made their way into the iPhone (its after front-facing camera tracks). Your face for the aforementioned Memojis!), along with Microsoft’s HoloLens headset. Not to mention countless experiments developers and researchers ran on Kinect hardware in the 2010s.

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zune [Photo: Microsoft/Getty Images]

But if you really read between the lines, the list highlights Microsoft’s weakest link in the last 20+ years: mobile. Microsoft’s failings in mobile technology started with the well-designed Zune (2006 to 2015). This was Microsoft’s iPod competitor with a squishy body and a brilliant typographic interface that feels contemporary to this day. But it came five years after the first iPod, making it too little too late.

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Microsoft’s Kin and Lumia 650 [Photos: Ryan Anson/Bloomberg/Getty Images, mik38/Getty Images]

You will also see the many fancy smartphones. The Microsoft Lumia (technically a Nokia phone that Microsoft rebranded after acquiring the company) was launched in 2011. Its bright colors and chunky UI were a refreshing counterpoint to the iPhone, but it was discontinued in 2017 because Windows Mobile phones never got a foothold in the market.

However, you won’t find a bigger flaw in the history of gadgets than the Microsoft Kin, launched in 2010. It was Microsoft’s attempt to build a fun QWERTY phone like the Sidekick. But after only 48 days dead sales, Microsoft withdrew the phone despite an estimated development cost of $1 billion. It sold everything 503 Units.

You’d think these mobile outages would be enough to kill not just a few Microsoft products, but Microsoft as a company. But while the company has never been able to beat Apple at its own game, Microsoft’s Office and its business-focused cloud services increased his wealth all the same. When Microsoft has failed to win over consumers, it has always found a way to win over IT managers.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90737387/see-all-the-products-microsoft-has-murdered-since-1992?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner Check out all the products Microsoft has murdered since 1992

JACLYN DIAZ

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