Microsoft is one of the most valuable companies in the world. What started with DOS and Windows operating systems has evolved into a company specializing in games, robotics, agriculture, augmented reality, and more. (You can research a lot of new ideas when you employ 180,000 people.)
But inevitably, Microsoft has killed off countless products on its way to global dominance. And you can see a long list of these products on the site Killed by Microsoft. It’s a sequel to Killed by Google, executed in exactly the same style (its creator, Fabiano Riccardi, built from Cory Ogden’s original project). These “killed by” sites are a fun but informative way to browse products forgotten by time, as each dead product is adorned with its own gravestone and a link to Wikipedia for more.
Truth be told, Killed by Microsoft doesn’t feature every product the company has iced since its inception in 1975. The most notable recent absence is Tay, the racist AI who went crazy on Twitter in 2016. The list is shorter than it could be. Notably, it does not include several discontinued products versions of Windows released over the years (not even the face that was Windows 8’s Metro design language, a flat redesign that was so hated it forced Microsoft to bring back its famous Start button). You also won’t see the many Xboxes on the list or the iterations of the AR HoloLens headset.
Even still, the list includes 70 products that Microsoft has discontinued since 1992, which offers a walk down memory lane, while still providing plenty of stops your memory probably completely missed. And while some of those shutdowns are cringe-worthy, many describe Microsoft as a company ahead of its time.
Take comic cat (1996 to 1999). It was basically another text chat software for desktop computers, like the popular AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) of that time. But instead of just using words, Comic Chat actually turned written text into comic book panels. He didn’t just put words in bubbles; its characters had postures and facial expressions that added emotion to your words (you could make your character laugh by typing “LOL”, for example).
Comic Chat may not have overthrown AIM, which was the greatest messenger of that era. But you can see how many of his ideas have come to fruition more than a decade later. Today, the folks at Bitmoji play your words on Snapchat (Bitmoji itself started out as a customizable online comic), and Apple’s Memoji mascots are full-motion cartoon avatars for iMessages.
Another product ahead of its time was Kinect, a body-tracking camera made for Xbox that could listen to voice commands. We wrote a lengthy look back at the Kinect when it was retired in 2017, and while it didn’t grab the gaming market the way Microsoft anticipated, we can see how its core technologies actually fared. made their way into the iPhone (its forward-facing camera tracks your face for those aforementioned Memojis!), as well as Microsoft’s HoloLens headset. And that’s not to mention the countless experiments creators and researchers conducted with Kinect hardware throughout the 2010s.
But if you really read between the lines, the list highlights Microsoft’s weakest link over the past 20+ years: mobile. Microsoft’s misfires in mobile technology started with the well-designed Zune (2006 to 2015). It was Microsoft’s iPod competitor that featured a squishy body and a brilliant typographic interface which still feels contemporary to this day. But it arrived five years after the first iPod, making it too small too late.
You will also see its many failing smartphones. The Microsoft Lumia (technically a Nokia phone that Microsoft rebranded after acquiring the company) launched in 2011. Its bright colors and chunky interface were a refreshing counterpoint to the iPhone, but it was discontinued in 2017 because Windows Mobile phones have never been able to find a foothold in the market.
However, you won’t notice a bigger failure in gadget history than the Microsoft Kin, which was launched in 2010. It was Microsoft’s attempt to build a fun QWERTY phone like the Sidekick. But after just 48 days of dead sales, Microsoft pulled the phone despite estimated development costs of $1 billion. He sold everything 503 units.
You would think that these mobile failures would be enough to kill not just a few Microsoft products, but Microsoft as a company. Yet while the company could never beat Apple at its own game, Microsoft Office and its cloud services for businesses allowed his fortune to grow All The same. When Microsoft failed to win over consumers, it always found a way to win over IT managers.