SAN FRANCISCO (01/12/2004) - Doing an about-face at the eleventh hour, Microsoft Corp. on Monday decided to extend its support of Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition (SE), and Windows Millennium until June 30, 2006 -- support that was scheduled to be phased out starting this Friday.
According to a company spokesman, the company rethought its position on Windows 98 late last week in response to "customer need," and because the company wanted to bring Windows 98 SE into compliance with the company's current life cycle policy for new products, which provides support for seven years instead of the original four, according to the company.
"The first (reason) was in response to customer needs. Microsoft made this decision to accommodate customers worldwide who are still dependent upon these operating systems and to provide Microsoft more time to communicate its product life cycle support guidelines in a handful of markets - particularly smaller and emerging markets," said Frank Kane, a Microsoft spokesman.
The decision to lengthen support for Windows 98 and Windows Millennium customers through the same date provides a "clear and consistent date for support conclusion for all of these older products," Kane said.
During this time, Microsoft will continue to offer paid phone support and will continue to review any critical security issues and take appropriate steps.
According to recent numbers from IDC, as of year end 2003, there were still 58 million Windows 98 users, 21 million Windows 95 users, and 25 million Windows Millennium users. The company said the installed base of desktop operating systems users now totals 380 million.
Besides doing a better job of listening to the financial and technical needs of their customers, the move may also have to do with Microsoft protecting its mammoth installed base against the surging tide of Linux-based distributors led by Red Hat Inc. and SuSE Linux AG.
"Some reasons have to do with users needing continued support and not being able to move for one reason or another. The other is if they left people orphaned, the open source community would swoop in to say, 'hey, we can help you'. Considering the competitive nature of the market in general, some very big companies could end up walking into the arms of Red Hat and SuSE," said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president in charge of operating system research at IDC.
Kusnetzky added, however, that in the context of other operating systems suppliers Microsoft is actually more generous than other providers that often discontinue support of older systems about a year after its replacement comes out.
"In terms of support (Microsoft) is already generous. Most OS suppliers support their product for no more than a year after the replacement has come out. So there are both sides to that," Kusnetzky said.
Updated details about the new extended support period for these products will be posted Jan. 15 at http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle, the company said.