Microsoft insists NT support is someone else's job

Despite growing user complaints and recent hardware vendors' moves to stop bundling Windows NT with their products, Microsoft has no plans to change its policy of leaving the responsibility for Windows NT systems support to other vendors.

Despite growing user complaints and recent hardware vendors' moves to stop bundling Windows NT with their products, Microsoft has no plans to change its policy of leaving the responsibility for Windows NT systems support to other vendors.

The company's reaffirmation of the policy - and assertion that it is better for users because it gives them more support options - is not likely to please either group.

"[Windows NT] is a Microsoft product, and they should support it themselves," says Jerry Rowe, an engineer who manages PC networks for a large Midwestern utility. "They make a ton of money and then get everyone to go out and do their dirty work for them."

A few hardware heavyweights - IBM, Digital, Hewlett-Packard, and Compaq - recently said they will not bundle Windows NT with all of their hardware. The vendors said they would continue to provide utilities and drivers for the OS, but service and support would be handled primarily by resellers and Microsoft, which will charge for support.

Vendors which provide NT support get the OS at a cheaper rate and should be able to pass that savings on to their users, according to Microsoft.

"We will make sure there are a number of different avenues to make sure that people get support on Microsoft products," says Steve Blair, program manager for Microsoft's technical support. "It makes sense for other [vendors] to pull together support options that could provide more value."

Some people disagree.

"It's passing the buck to save money," says one Windows NT user who asked not to be identified. "Microsoft proclaims their faith in these companies by dealing with them on NT, but then they dump the responsibility on these `partners.' The partners shouldn't have to answer for Microsoft's product."

Microsoft could solve many of the support troubles by making NT easier to install and manage, particularly with NT 5.0, according to some observers.

"The biggest NT support headache is that they are putting things in and not telling anyone about it," says Peter Kust, a consultant with ITRW, in Houston. "If I don't know they've made fixes, these things they're doing might break my code. Then you have more problems."

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