Users to Microsoft: Don’t forget NT 4.0

Corporate users have a message for Microsoft: Don't leave us hanging without support for Windows NT 4.0. Many IS shops are putting NT 5.0 migration plans on hold until their companies take care of year 2000 issues. Meanwhile, they want assurances that Microsoft will fully support their NT 4.0-based installations. But whether the software maker will do that appears to be the subject of some debate.

Corporate users have a message for Microsoft: Don’t leave us hanging without support for Windows NT 4.0.

Many IS shops are putting NT 5.0 migration plans on hold until their companies take care of year 2000 issues.

Meanwhile, they want assurances that Microsoft will fully support their NT 4.0-based installations. But whether the software maker will do that appears to be the subject of some debate.

That could be a problem for corporate users. A senior vice president at Microsoft recently stressed that the company would focus on making tools and software for NT 5.0 and that it will move support away from NT 4.0 in the not-so-distant future.

Jim Allchin, senior vice president for personal and business systems at Microsoft, told an audience of corporate users at GartnerGroup’s recent NT conference in San Francisco that he isn’t sure how long Microsoft will continue to support NT 4.0 once NT 5.0 hits the streets sometime next year.

That’s because new software and tools created to work with Active Directory in NT 5.0 won’t work all that well with NT 4.0, which doesn’t have Active Directory.

The directory gives users a centralised place to find a listing of what is running in the system.

“As soon as [users] start working with the directory, it will be hard for them to run on past versions,” Allchin said. “All of [Microsoft’s] applications will be revved to work on the directory, so it will only be a matter of time before we have to move on.” But some users are having none of that.

“Microsoft shouldn’t push too hard,” said Jeremy Lanctot, a senior process engineer at Honeywell Inc. in Minneapolis.

“Microsoft had better be there for us,” Lanctot said. “Doing an upgrade is a major support issue for us. We’re just trying to centralise now on NT 4.0 on the desktop, so I don’t see us moving to NT 5.0 anytime real soon.”

Ed Schaider, an analyst at The Standish Group International Inc. in Dennis, Massachusetts, said some NT users will find themselves in the same position as those still holding on to Windows 3.1

“Microsoft will back off support [for NT 4.0] much like they did for Windows 3.1, and there’s still a tremendous amount of Windows 3.1 deployment,” Schaider said. “Some new software development tools won’t work with users’ older version [of NT], so the users will just live without the new software [and NT 5.0]. They’ll figure NT 4.0 is working for them and it’s the least of their problems.”

But Paul Soares, general manager and senior vice president at Alden Buick Pontiac GMC in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, and a member of the GMC Access Council, which oversees the company’s communication network to all of its dealerships, doesn’t want a loss of support to become a problem.

“If they pull support off too soon, that would be a real issue for me,” Soares said. “You can’t force people to change. It’s not like it’s free. We’ve got cost pressures coming at us all over the place.”

Soares said the GMC Access network expects to upgrade to NT 5.0 fairly soon after its release, but year 2000 problems could slow that down.

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