After a 15 year run, Microsoft is retiring the TechNet Subscriber service. And, this, just after announcing that Office 365 would be free to TechNet Subscribers for one year.

I'll just let Microsoft provide the eulogy for you:

Microsoft is retiring the TechNet Subscriptions service to focus on growing its free offerings, including evaluation resources through the TechNet Evaluation Center, expert-led learning through the Microsoft Virtual Academy, and community-moderated technical support through the TechNet Forums to better meet the needs of the growing IT professional community.

The last day to purchase a TechNet Subscription through the TechNet Subscriptions website is August 31, 2013. Subscribers may activate purchased subscriptions through September 30, 2013.

Microsoft will continue to honor all existing TechNet Subscriptions. Subscribers with active accounts may continue to access program benefits until their current subscription period concludes.

The FAQs below includes additional information for all subscribers, including those that receive subscription benefits through Microsoft programs such as Not-For-Resale (NFR), Volume Licensing (VL), IT Academy (ITA), MAPS, Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP).

FAQ: http://technet.microsoft.com/subscriptions/ms772427

So, the good news is that Microsoft is going to focus on their free offerings. The bad news here, sounds like, is that those companies and individuals who already have a TechNet Subscription will get nothing special since Microsoft will be presenting much of the paid offerings for free to anyone with a mouse or touchscreen. In addition, the full product downloads, used by IT for testing purposes, will no longer be available. But, in a Cloud world, this makes a lot of sense. Those wanting to test new software can simply spin-up a Microsoft Azure-hosted VM, completely configured for the application they want to try-out or through the use of TechNet Virtual Labs. These days, using Microsoft Azure, a testing lab can be setup and running in minutes with just a mouse click.

In the FAQ Microsoft lists in their announcement, there's quite a bit to sift through and consume, so here's the highlights:

  • New subscriptions won't be accepted after August 31, 2013.
  • Renewals may be purchased up to August 31, 2013.
  • Subscriptions must be activated by September 30, 2013 or they are forfeit.
  • Current subscriptions will last until the contract ends (usually 1 year from purchase).
  • MCTs who subscribe to TechNet will have access to their program benefits until March 31, 2014.

Goodnight sweet TechNet.

For those that need access to downloadable bits of Microsoft software, there are still a couple ways:

  1. The Microsoft Action Pack subscription:  To subscribe to the MAPS, you must be a Registered Member of the Microsoft Partner Network and pass an assessment.
  2. MSDN Subscription:  The Microsoft Developer Network is primarily for developers.

So, unless you're a partner or a developer you'll need to utilize the Microsoft Virtual Labs, or invest in Windows Azure.

One thing that's also interesting is that the TechNet Subscription was one of the last benefits the Microsoft MVPs had left. Microsoft removed the MVPs' ability to purchase hardware, software, books, gadgets and apparel from the online Microsoft Store a couple years back. Other than a trip to Redmond once a year and a yearly award statue, it now looks like the MVP program's benefits have been severely diminished. Could the MVP program be getting the ax next?

One MVP has been noted as saying: "Microsoft moved their MVPs from TN to MSDN a month or two ago…now we know why."