Microsoft has let the world know that its Encarta encyclopedia software is still not dead… by announcing it will be later this year. In a message posted on the MSN Encarta website, Microsoft said the encyclopedia software will be removed from stores by June while the affiliated sites will be closed by the end of October – with the exception of Encarta Japan which will run until the end of December. Current subscribers to Encarta premium services will receive a refund for services paid beyond the closing date.

The software giant says that the “category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed” and that “people today seek and consume information in considerably different ways.” In other words, it just couldn’t compete with free online sources such as Wikipedia, a collaborative and free project that has become the leading encyclopedia on the web with an astonishing 97 percent of the market – although many will question the accuracy of their articles my experience with the site has been positive for the most part.

We should note that when Encarta first appeared it really was an interesting piece of software and entertaining to explore. However, the Internet has made the same information much more accessible and up-to-date than ever before. Microsoft nevertheless hinted that Encarta could be replaced in the future, but gave no specifics as to what that new service or product will be.