No More Microsoft Support For You

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2003-12-12

No More Microsoft Support For You

It will be two days before Christmas, and all through the world, not a creature will be stirring except Microsoft employees taking many programs off the Microsoft sales racks.

Why? To make more money from you, of course!

According to AssetMetrix Research Labs, more than 80 percent of companies are still using Windows 98 and/or Windows 95. Dan Kusnetzky, IDC vice president for system software research, tells me that there are still 21 million Windows 95 users out there and about 58 million Windows 98 users. Thats about 20 percent of all desktop systems. Thats a lot of machines. If youre one of those poor folks, youve just about reached the end of your Microsoft support rope.

Starting Dec. 23, Microsoft is phasing out most programs that embed Microsofts Java Virtual Machine (MSJVM) technology. That includes all versions of Windows 98 that arent second edition, SQL Server 7, Visual Studio 6.0, and most versions of Office 2000 and earlier. Some will be saved—the NT family, Office Professional and Small Business Server 2000—but most will soon be history.

Even some operating systems that will survive the initial chop are due to have support cut. After Jan. 16, Windows 98SE support ends. NT 4 gets a few more months before its support finally gets axed on June 30.

Microsoft claims that its making its pre-Christmas moves because Sun Microsystems forced the company to do it. Yeah, right! In fact, the 2001 legal settlement of Suns Java lawsuit (the ostensible reason for Microsofts move) would have let Microsoft run MSJVM in its products for another nine months (until Sept. 30, 2004).

What Microsoft is really doing is forcing business customers to upgrade their operating systems to XP and Server 2003 and their application suites to Office XP and Office 2003. I think the company is doing this to kick up corporate XP sales. (Both Server 2003 and Office 2003 have had disappointing sales.)

In a way, I cant blame Microsoft for this move. As IDCs Kusnetzky told me, Microsoft has already supported its programs long after most companies would have pulled the plug.

Still, many companies havent had the money during the past few tough years to upgrade their operating systems or office suites even had they had wanted to. It also hasnt helped any that between Licensing 6 and an increase in overall pricing, Microsofts products are darn pricey for any IT buyer.

Next page: How Microsoft locks users in.

Microsoft Lockdown

Worse still, if you take a close look at Microsofts current generation of software, youll quickly see that its all designed to lock you into Microsoft products, from your desktop to your server.

Take, for example, Office 2003. Unless you use its groupware and presence functionality, its really little more than a cosmetic improvement over Office XP. To use those new tools, though, you need to upgrade your server to W2K or Server 2003 so you can run Exchange 2003, SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Live Communications Server 2003. Oh, and if you havent moved from domains to Active Directory, youll need to do that, too.

Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot of infrastructure work and money just to get some real value out of an office-suite upgrade?

Of course, you dont have to upgrade. Is there really anything vital in Office XP that you didnt get in Office 97? For many companies, the answer is no.

There is one pressing reason, though: Microsoft software has become a byword for insecure software. If youre going to be running Windows 98SE after mid-January, youd better be darn sure that your firewall is bulletproof and that your computers are all running the latest and greatest anti-virus programs. If youre not, what security you have will rot away as crackers continue to find new and better holes in Microsofts operating systems and applications.

From where I sit, Microsoft is not only bullying customers into upgrading, its making it so pricey to do so that even people who love Microsoft must start thinking about alternatives.

On the client side, Suns Java Desktop System (JDS) and other Linux-based platforms like Xandros and the combination of Novell and SuSE deserves a look. Heck, even Macs (although you pay a premium for them) are beginning to look attractive for corporate desktops. I mean with a Mac, at least you only pay one big upfront price for a Mac, rather then locking yourself into Licensing 6s two- or three-year Software Assurance maintenance contracts.

As for servers, I have one word for you: Linux. With every day that passes, SCO appears more unlikely to win against IBM. With IBM, HP, Oracle and Novell all behind it, only fools now say that Linux wont amount to much. And unlike Windows, when a company decides it wont support a Linux distribution anymore, that doesnt mean support ends. (Just consider the trail Progeny is blazing with its Red Hat Linux support.) In light of whats about to happen to Windows 98 and Office 2000 users, that kind of never-ending corporate support is looking mighty fine. Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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