What I predicted in my Oct 2008 entry The end of Encarta Encyclopedia? has now come true. Microsoft announced they will stop selling Microsoft Student and Encarta products worldwide by June 2009, and MSN Encarta will be discontinued on October 31, 2009. The reason given was that people search and use information in different ways than with traditional encyclopedias and reference works. They didn't say what the new ways were, but most can guess: the Internet, commonly Google and Wikipedia. No successor product was announced, though there was a vague comment about leveraging the Encarta assets to develop future technology solutions, which in everyday language means they have stuff they don't know what to do with.
I've watch Encarta grow and change from the early 1994 version to the 2009 version. In those 15 years, there been many content changes. Some have persisted to the end, such as sidebars, while others only stay for a few years, such as collages. In a way it was like watching a cherished pet being born, grow, mature, and finally leave. In my youth I always wished I owned a set of encyclopedias. Encarta helped fulfilled that young boy's wish as it joined me on my journey with the computer industry. You help keep alive the spark of wonder and joy of learning. Farewell old friend, you shall be missed.