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September 10, 2010

Microsoft shutters Vine emergency news service

Posted by David Hunter at 11:55 AM ET.

Microsoft today announced the closing of the Vine emergency meta news and social network service that they had announced in April 2009. No specific reason was given:

Despite positive feedback from customers like you over the course of Vine’s private beta, Microsoft has made the decision to discontinue Microsoft Vine effective October 11, 2010. After this date, you will no longer be able to access Microsoft Vine. We suggest that you record any contact information currently stored in Vine, prior to October 11th.

I frankly found the concept more than a trifle dubious at the time it was announced, but chalked it up as some sort of public service and public relations effort. That has now been ended.

Filed under General Business, Home Software, Microsoft, Microsoft Vine, Public Relations

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June 11, 2009

Microsoft Money gets the axe

Posted by David Hunter at 11:32 AM ET.

Microsoft Money Plus Box ShotMicrosoft today announced that the end has come for their Microsoft Money personal financial software:

Important notice: Microsoft Money Plus will not be available for purchase after June 30, 2009. All purchased Money Plus products must be activated prior to Jan. 31, 2011.

With banks, brokerage firms and Web sites now providing a range of options for managing personal finances, the consumer need for Microsoft Money Plus has changed. After suspending annual updates of Money Plus in 2008, Microsoft is announcing today that we will no longer offer Microsoft Money Plus for purchase after June 30, 2009.

Current Money Plus customers who have questions or concerns can find additional information here.

I suppose the announcement last August of the skipped 2009 update and the end of retail box sales should have been a warning, but I thought there might still have been a market for centralized personal financial planning software as opposed to all the disparate options mentioned in the announcement. There likely still is, but not for Microsoft, as Intuit is still forging ahead with Quicken:

Meanwhile, I also spoke with a spokesman for Intuit, who said that the company is looking at ways to make it easier for Microsoft Money users to bring their data over to that product.

"We look it as an opportunity to show Microsoft Money customers what they have been missing… over the years," Intuit spokesman Scott Gulbransen said.

Although Intuit has recently been bulking up its free online product, Gulbransen said that the company is committed to also offering PC-based software. "We are committed to those who would like to stay with a desktop software solution," he said.

Quicken would certainly be worth a try for committed Microsoft Money users, particularly if they offer easy data transfer from Money. As for Microsoft’s home software products, with the demise of big name offerings like Money and Encarta there’s not much left except Streets & Trips and the ubiquitous Microsoft Works.

Filed under Coopetition, Home Software, Intuit, Microsoft, Microsoft Money

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April 29, 2009

Microsoft Vine: A subscription meta social network for emergencies, mostly

Posted by David Hunter at 10:56 AM ET.

Microsoft revealed a private beta in the Seattle area of the Microsoft Vine social networking service yesterday and it is more than a trifle odd:

Microsoft has just launched a new product called Vine into private beta. The service connects Facebook, Twitter, text messages, phone calls, email, and other forms of communication into one system for the purpose of keeping people connected during a crisis situation.
The new service isn’t being designed to compete with the social networks that are already in place – it’s designed to augment and embrace them by connecting them all together for communication purposes.

Er, OK – it’s meta social network. So what’s the point?

What Vine does is gather news from 20,000 local and national sources, including public safety announcements from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It then displays those news items to you on a map of your area.

OK – it’s a location sensitive news service similar to what most local TV station websites offer.

In addition, Vine displays the Facebook status updates of your friends and family, including their location if they permit that info to be shared. Twitter and other social networking sites will be added as well, but are not currently present at launch time.  Also planned for the future is traditional phone integration. Once added, people will be able to send and receive messages using automated voice technology.

In the event of an emergency, a Vine user could send out an alert to a specific contact list (e.g. “Family,” “Friends,” etc.). Those receiving the alert would do so using whatever format they had chosen – an email or text message for example. Another option for sharing alerts involves linking Vine to Facebook to send the alerts as a Facebook status updates that everyone can see. There’s also a desktop software component that could be used – it currently works on Vista or XP computers, but future integrations are planned, including Mac and Silverlight platforms. Recipients can then reply to the alert using that same format, if desired.

There’s more by following the link, but I’m still scratching my head. In most major emergencies the power is going to be out and folks will have more important things to do than fool around online. If you have power it might save a few keystrokes, I guess, but it hardly seems compelling and neither do the suggestions for nonemergency uses like sending notifications to a mailing list.

If that was all, one could chalk up Vine as a nice but ineffectual public service effort on Microsoft’s part, but Jessi Hempel reports at Fortune that Vine is Microsoft’s attempt to make social networking pay because it actually incorporates a paid subscription service:

… chief strategist Craig Mundie tells Fortune the company is planning on pursuing a subscription-based model instead of trying to support the platform only with advertising. … And he says he is optimistic that Microsoft can crack the code for making money off social networks.

Microsoft says it would make basic service available free, but would charge for premium services, such as access to the platform via smart phone. The world soon will know if consumers are willing to pay for social networking, or if the subscription model is destined to die on the vine.

Pardon the mixed metaphor, but I wonder if even the Seattle/Redmond private beta will get tire kickers for this turkey, much more anywhere else.

Filed under Home Software, Microsoft, Microsoft Vine

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March 31, 2009

Microsoft pulls the plug on Encarta

Posted by David Hunter at 11:51 AM ET.

The CD-ROM encyclopedias killed the printed versions, then the online encyclopedias killed the CD-ROMs, and now the free online encyclopedias (primarily Wikipedia, but also Google’s Knol) are killing off the paid online encyclopedias like Microsoft’s Encarta as Emil Protalinksi discovered:

When I first saw this, I had to do a double take. I made sure it wasn’t April 1 at least three times before I conceded. While looking around Encarta’s homepage today, I stumbled on a message that Microsoft was getting rid of MSN Encarta completely: "On October 31, 2009, MSN Encarta Web sites worldwide will be discontinued, with the exception of Encarta Japan, which will be discontinued on December 31, 2009. Additionally, Microsoft will cease to sell Microsoft Student and Encarta Premium software products worldwide by June 2009." Looks like employees at Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica will be throwing parties tonight.

The Britannica employees would be better served by sprucing up their resumes. A Microsoft spokesman mostly said that it was an evolutionary step, which indeed it is, and would not reveal if there were any layoffs. See the Encarta Wikipedia entry (naturally) for more on Encarta’s history.

Filed under Coopetition, Home Software, Microsoft, Wikipedia

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