Microsoft recently said that support for Windows 98 and 98 SE would be phased out this Friday—January 16, while support for Windows Me was due to stop on December 31, 2004.
But on Monday a company spokesman told eWEEK that the decision to extend support for the products was "part of Microsofts ongoing effort to respond to customers needs around the world." During this time, Microsoft will continue to offer paid phone support and will continue to review any critical security issues and take appropriate steps.
"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 lifecycle support guidelines in a handful of markets—particularly smaller and emerging markets," he said.
According to officials, Microsoft also wanted to bring Windows 98 SE into compliance with the companys current lifecycle policy for new products, which provides for support for seven years instead of the original four.
"Microsoft made the decision to also lengthen support for Windows 98 and Windows Me customers through the same date in order to provide a clear and consistent date for support conclusion for all of these older products," the spokesman said.
The move is expected to bring relief to some IT users, and particularly consumers, given the millions who still use the products.
Analysts at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. estimated that there are some 58 million Windows 98 users in addition to the existing 21 million Windows 95 users. At the same time, Ottawa-based AssetMetrix Research Labs said that more than 80 percent of companies are still using some Windows 98 and/or Windows 95.
However, some IT professionals like Jim Lambright, an IT manager with Roth Manufacturing Corp., in New London, Ohio, find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. The companies are running outdated PC business applications but are not making enough profit to upgrade their hardware and software.
"Oftentimes, the budgets just dont allow for all these fancy upgrades. Its the if it aint broke, dont fix it scenario. Im in Northern Ohio and the region is losing businesses so fast its unreal. Upgrades are not a prerequisite if your profit loss margin is in the less than one percent range," he said.
"Also, to upgrade both the desktop and network operating system will not improve production on the shop floor, which is where the money is made," Lambright observed. "I cant even come close to being able to pitch a justification proposal when I know we need new machinery on the shop floor. That is why Linux will become increasingly popular in the business world."
Microsoft support was often also a case of too little too late, he added. Support for the companys older operating systems such as Windows 95 and 98 appeared to be different than the way it supported its NT products, which always seemed to be the favored child.
"I dont believe Microsoft ever intended Windows 98SE to be so big in the enterprise. But it also appears that the newer bugs have been written for NT-based systems, which helps a bit," Lambright said.