Microsoft to discontinue Encarta

March 31 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. MSFT.O is to exit its Encarta encyclopedia business later this year after losing ground over the years to freely available reference material on the Internet on web sites like Wikipedia.

“People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past,” the software maker said in a notice posted on its MSN website.

Microsoft, which axed 5,000 jobs earlier this year to cut costs and warned profit and revenue would fall over the next two quarters, said it would stop selling Encarta software products by June.

Encarta websites worldwide, except Encarta Japan, would be discontinued on October 31 and Encarta Japan will cease after December 31, the company said. (Reporting by Vikram S Subhedar in Bangalore; Editing by Dan Lalor)