Microsoft have announced the demise of Encarta which will be effective from 31st October 2009. The company has said this on a FAQ page they have set up explaining the decision;
“Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.”
Yes they do.
I only have to look at the bibliographies produced by students at my school to see that Wikipedia has taken over as the encyclopedia reference source our students go to first. With 2.7 million entries vs 42,000 in Encarta it’s not hard to see why. We try and impress upon our students the need to cross check information but we certainly don’t dissuade them from using it.
I saw the power of Wikipedia unfold when the American airbus crash landed in the Hudson River. As the incident unfolded the Wikipedia page started taking shape. At that point in time, this method of participatory media was the best source of information about what was happening.
We have recently made the decision at my school to unsubscribe from Encyclopedia Brittanica. We are retaining our subscription to World Book, but despite our best efforts, find it difficult to get our students to use it as their first port of call. Subscription databases are expensive and from an economic standpoint you have to look at usage vs cost. I’m waiting for the day when these subscription database services wake up and realise that they would be better served offering their services for free. They could move to accepting advertising on their sites to generate income to sustain their costs.
Microsoft Research is dedicating WorldWide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray and is releasing WWT as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe like never before.
That’s very nice of Microsoft, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s not a response to the open source revolution that is taking place. Regardless, it looks like an amazing tool that is going to be a truly wonderful resource for Science teachers and anyone with an interest in checking out the universe.
I’ma bit of a night sky lover. A few years ago a friend and I spent some nights getting up at 2am and drove to a sports field so that we could check out meteor showers that were visible. We saw some incredible meteors; the most spectaculor one blazed across the sky and was a true aha moment. It sounds cliche, but losing yourself in the night sky does make you question our purpose here – why is it that we push ourselves so hard and get caught up in the minutiae of life?
Enough philosophising! I lost myself in World Wide Telescopefor 45 mins and didn’t notice time passing. Still don’t know how to navigate it properly. Best remedy for this is to introduce it to a class and let them work it out for me! Or alternately, take this advice from Microsoft;
Click the top of the Guided Tours tab and then click the Welcome thumbnail to watch a guided tour showing you how to navigate in WWT.
It’s a big file to download (20MB) but it’s pretty impressive. Give it a try.
This is from TED talks and has just been posted. It’s the first view of the World Wide telescope, a product of Microsoft, that is going to be available as a free download at the website worldwidetelescope.org in the Northern Spring of this year. Very interesting that Microsoft is offering it as a free download – this is why according to their FAQ page;
“Microsoft Research is dedicating WorldWide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray and is releasing WWT as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe as never before.”
Roy Gould, a researcher at the Harvard Centre for Astrophysics, thinks it’s truly transformative, enabling you to experience and tour the universe. You can create your own tours of the universe and share them with friends and they’re interactive- imagine all the possibilities this presents for classrooms and learning about astronomy – why wasn’t this around when I was a kid? I may have been an astronomer now if it had have been. I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky – I love to lose myself in it and contemplate my place in the world. This is going to be wonderful and I can’t wait to play and share it with my kids. Thanks to Jeff Utecht for the heads up to this from a Twitter post.
Google has responded to Microsoft’s bid to takeover Yahoo. David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer for Google has posted a response on the Official Google Blog, and they’re not happy.
According to David, Microsoft’s hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.
He goes on to to say;
Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies — and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.
Could it also be that Google sees the merging of these two companies as a threat to the dominance they now exert over the Web?
I don’t know if we’re seeing a Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader battle here, or if there are any bad guys at all. What will be interesting is what could possibly happen if Microsoft is successful. No doubt new tools to play with and a Google fightback. Interesting times we live in. Thanks to Download Squad and Phil Bradley for alerts to this post.
*For those who read my previous post -pleased to report car keys found by kind citizen and returned to me today. To Lynne, who did the good deed and refused a reward for her kindness, my hope is that karma comes around and serves you well.
Download Squad has just posted a report suggesting that Microsoft has proposed to purchase all Yahoo outstanding shares. Here’s what Microsoft have to say in their press release;
Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) today announced that it has made a proposal to the Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) Board of Directors to acquire all the outstanding shares of Yahoo! common stock for per share consideration of $31 representing a total equity value of approximately $44.6 billion. Microsoft’s proposal would allow the Yahoo! shareholders to elect to receive cash or a fixed number of shares of Microsoft common stock, with the total consideration payable to Yahoo! shareholders consisting of one-half cash and one-half Microsoft common stock. The offer represents a 62 percent premium above the closing price of Yahoo! common stock on Jan. 31, 2008.
There’s been talk for a number of years now that Microsoft has been pumping millions into the development of a search engine that would tip Google off the top of the mount. Perhaps they’ve decided now to acquire the next best thing, Yahoo, and see what they can do with this platform that has the brand association they need. If they are successful, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them infuse Yahoo with new tools they may have in development that would give Google a run for their money. Here’s what Ray Ozzie, Chief Software Architect at Microsoft has said;
“The combination of these two great teams would enable us to jointly deliver a broad range of new experiences to our customers that neither of us would have achieved on our own.”
I think Google has Microsft running scared with the introduction of Google Docs and Spreadsheets etc. Interesting times we live in – can’t wait to see how things unfold.