Microsoft Bars Office 11 From Windows 9X

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-11-04 Print this article Print

Microsoft angers yet another group of legacy customers by making Office 11 compatible with only Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 or later OSes, including XP.

Microsoft Corp. has cut another tie to its past and, in the process, angered yet another group of legacy customers.

The Redmond, Wash., software company last week confirmed its decision to make its forthcoming Office 11 suite compatible with only Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 or later operating systems, including Windows XP. The move will affect as much as 60 percent of Microsofts installed base of pre-SP3 users.

Customers said this latest attempt by Microsoft to force them into upgrading follows the companys past moves to phase out support for older products and to push users to upgrade to its new licensing agreements.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft detailed a new life-cycle support policy for all its products, in which Windows 95 will reach its end-of-life, or unsupported, status, at the end of this year, and Windows 98 and Windows NT 4 will become completely unsupported at the end of June 2004.

"Its a little frustrating to learn that now we have to upgrade the NT operating system on some of our PCs before we can move to the next version of Office. I think their timing stinks on this one," said an IS director for an accounting and consulting company in Pennsylvania, adding that the moves make Linux and Sun Microsystems Inc.s StarOffice more attractive as alternatives to Microsoft products. "I would have preferred they announce their life-cycle policies and which platforms they would be developing for before their licensing deadline so I could have made a more informed decision," said the director, who requested anonymity.

Microsoft officials admit the decision not to support older products based on the Windows 95, 98 and Millennium Edition code base will not be popular with some customers but said the moves are necessary to create a more stable and better product.

Another reason for the lack of support for older Windows versions, officials said, is to improve security across Microsofts product line, confirming what many users have long known. "Windows 9x is inherently insecure," Sloan Crayton, a member of the Microsoft Office beta support team, told testers last week. "It also takes quite a bit of development time to make our products work well on Windows 9x. We determined that it would be more effective to spend that time making our products work better on the more advanced platforms." However, such explanations do little to help users who may want to upgrade Office but are running older Windows platforms.

"Microsoft has determined that it can ignore the tens of millions of customers that run Windows 95, ME, 98 and 98 Second Edition with Office 11. Quite simply, then, my 15,000 PCs will remain on Office 2000," said a Microsoft customer at an international transport company in Illinois who requested anonymity. "Microsoft clearly does not need the extra few billion in revenue that customers like us would bring to the market. We are happy with the products we have and will not be upgrading to Windows XP," she said.

Another customer in Groton, Mass., said he smells "a lock-in strategy that I think companies will be extremely reluctant to commit to." In combination with Microsofts new license agreements, the Office 11 strategy "spells doom for any user wishing to preserve whatever modicum of self-determination remains," said the customer, who also requested anonymity. He said there are no compelling technical reasons to prefer Windows 2000 SP3 over SP2, adding that the net effect was to "tighten Microsofts control over my computer. ... Im staying with Office 2000 and Visual Studio 6," he said.

A Microsoft spokesman said Office 11 is aimed at midsize and large businesses, many of which were already using Windows 2000 or Windows XP.

"Our customers told us they wanted security and reliability, and we are giving them that," the spokesman said. "We are confident the products continue to offer compelling value and will continue to do so going forward."

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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