This year Microsoft released the Surface Duo, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and plenty of other products and services, but it also said farewell to quite a bit. Streaming platforms, old operating systems, physical stores, and more all shut down in 2020. Some things that ended were quite expected, like Windows 7 support, while Mixer and others came as a surprise. 2020 has been an incredibly different year, so some shutdowns, like the closing of physical Microsoft Stores, may not have happened in different circumstances.
Windows 7 support
Windows 7 is an operating system beloved by many, but all good things come to an end. Official support for Windows 7 ended in January 2020. With its end, PCs running the old operating system no longer get official security updates. This end of support was known for years, but several organizations haven't migrated away from Windows 7 yet.
Windows 10X on dual-screen devices (at least for now)
At one point in time, Windows 10X seemed destined to only grace the likes of folding devices such as the Surface Neo. But in May of this year, Microsoft chief product office, Panos Panay, announced that Microsoft shifted its strategy for Windows 10X. Instead of being an OS that shipped exclusively to folding devices, Windows 10X will arrive first on single-screen devices.
Luckily for those who love folding tech, Windows 10X will still come to them at some point. Panay said, "These single-screen devices will be the first expression of Windows 10X that we deliver to our customers, and we will continue to look for the right moment, in conjunction with our OEM partners, to bring dual-screen devices to market."
Unfortunately, that means that the ThinkPad X1 Fold started rolling out with Windows 10 Pro, which isn't built for large folding screens. On the bright side, we'll likely see Windows 10X on more budget-friendly devices in the future.
Mixer shutting down was one of the biggest surprises of the year. Not only did the news pop up quickly for the public, it broke to partners and streamers through a tweet. BobDuckNWeave streamed for years on Mixer and said, "[It was] worse than a breakup via text from your other half of five years," adding that "The delivery of the announcement shows the complete lack of empathy you'd expect from a corporation like Microsoft."
While Microsoft shut down Mixer this year, the platform's ultra-low latency video streaming technology lives on in other Microsoft services. Microsoft Teams leverages the former service's streaming technology.
Matt Brown took a deep dive into what went wrong with Mixer shortly after Microsoft announced that it was shutting down, while later speaking to some of the top personalities from the platform.
Cortana skills on Windows 10
Cortana shifted towards productivity and away from general consumer usage this year. Microsoft announced a new Cortana experience that can find information across Microsoft 365, help manage your schedule with insight, and do other tasks that improve productivity. Microsoft dropped support for Cortana skills on Windows 10 with the new experience. That means that skills for Xbox, Spotify, SmartThings, and more stopped working on Cortana on Windows 10.
More devices are set to lose access to Cortana soon. Starting in January 2021, Microsoft will end Cortana integration with the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker.
Physical Microsoft Stores
This past June, Microsoft announced that all physical Microsoft Stores would close as part of a "strategic change." Microsoft stated at the time that it would put more money and effort into digital storefronts.
Physical Microsoft Stores closed only a few months after they shut their doors due to the global pandemic. Team members moved to remote jobs, and Microsoft shifted its efforts to deliver an experience not anchored to physical stores. But Microsoft Stores weren't just about shopping. They provided a place for people to bring in faulty devices to get help, a location for training, and a place to check out the latest tech from Microsoft in person.
Microsoft will repurpose four stores to "experience centers," but those locations are only available to a small group of people due to geography. Our senior editor Zac Bowden discussed the negative impact of physical Microsoft Stores shutting down earlier this year.
Honorable mention- Skype
Ok, so Skype isn't actually dead. In fact, hundreds of millions of people have Skype accounts, and I bet a few people still use them. That being said, in a year when more people shifted to video calls than ever, Skype fell even further behind competing services. Zoom became the verb of choice for video calling and Skype ... didn't. The Late Late Show with James Corden did a great sketch that summarizes Skype in 2020.
While Skype didn't do well in 2020, Microsoft Teams use skyrocketed. Teams appears to be Microsoft's pride and joy. The service gained new features, regularly received updates, and over 115 million people use it daily. More importantly for Microsoft, Teams gained traction among businesses, in enterprise, and in the eyes of the general public.
A final farewell
As 2020 comes to a close, we big a final farewell to these Microsoft products and services. While it's sad to see some of them go, there's a lot to look forward to in 2021. Next year is set to be a big year for Windows and new Surface hardware is just around the corner.
Which product or service will you miss the most? Is there one that you're happy Microsoft moved on from? Let us know in the comments below.