Readers Size Up Microsofts Orphaned Software

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2003-12-19

Readers Size Up Microsofts Orphaned Software readers are concerned about Microsoft Corp.s recent moves to retire Office 2000; Windows 98; and other older, but still well-used programs. Most accept that theres nothing to be done about Microsofts decision. Some readers said they see an opening for Macs and open-source operating systems and programs, while others see these retirements as business as usual and just wish people would just get over it and upgrade to XP and Server 2003.

"Between the security issues, steep cost of forced MS upgrades, and the unduly long software cycle [a Gartner Group report now suggests a 2007-2008 time frame] for the more secure Longhorn release, CIOs have got to be looking at alternatives," suggested David Porowski, a Washington, D.C., systems engineer.

Julie Aiken, a network administrator for a Pennsylvania law firm, wondered "why the Office of Homeland Security is letting Microsoft get away with not providing security patches for older systems. Given the statistics that millions of machines are running Windows 95 and Windows 98—isnt this a security risk? Couldnt the older machines easily be targeted to create a denial-of-service attack on, say, the Pentagon or the State Department?" While she agrees that Microsoft "should not have to update tech support information online or give free tech support on older systems ... I do believe Microsoft should be held accountable by the government for the security of all of its systems that are in use."

Others, like George Ou, a network systems architect based in San Jose, Calif., pointed out that "most companies wouldnt even support their old software as long as Microsoft has."

Looking at Macintosh and open-source software alternatives, Ou said he isnt convinced that theyre any cheaper. "Apple is the master of [vendor lock-in] with their famous $400 floppy disks when PC floppies cost $40. Just in the last two months, Apple was widely flamed for initially refusing to release a critical security update for Jaguar [Mac OS X 10.2] even though Panther [Mac OS X 10.3] was just released. Thats like Microsoft releasing Windows XP SP2 at $110 and then immediately turning around and refusing to patch Windows XP SP1."

"The truth of the matter is," Ou continued, "Windows XP cost me about $100 OEM CD, $60 when bundled with machine, and has served me well for over two years and will continue to serve me for a total of four years until the arrival of Longhorn. The model for Suns JDS is an automatic $150/year/user, and I dont see how that is supposed to be cheaper. As for Red Hats support model, it just downright scares me. "My company with 1,500 people running all of MS latest software will call MS tech support eight times a year at a flat rate of $250 a call for a total of $2,000 per year to support Exchange, Active Directory and all other MS software issues combined. Its $250 per incident even if MS has to spend one month fixing the problem. The Enterprise licensing plan with MS allows us to buy Windows 2003 standard for about $410 and Web Edition for about $220, and Enterprise Edition was something like $1,400. Im no fan of paying $180 to $3,000 per year per seat. I like paying $200 to $400 upfront for the server and paying $250 per incident especially when we only have four to eight incidents a year. $2,000 of support fees works out nicely when you have 100 servers. What I wont do is pay an average of $1,000 per server, times 100 servers, which works out to $100K!"

Next page: The sooner Win9x goes away, the better.

Page Two

Ou added, "From my perspective, the sooner Win9x goes away, the better. If you want to keep it for home, just make sure youre behind a router and/or have a free personal firewall installed. Win9x is about 6 years old, and NT4 is about 8 years old, and its time for support to end. A worst example is when Oracle ended support for Oracle 10.7 even though people are still refusing to upgrade to that beast 11i."

He concluded, "Bottom line, Im not complaining about the competition that Linux and the others bring because it only serves to keep MS honest with better prices and better innovation, but … Licensing 6 is beginning to look good when compared to Red Hat where they dont get you on the licensing but they nail you many times over on the support. Everyone is in business to make money, but it just cracks me up to hear Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy lecture Microsoft on high prices. Red Hat isnt far behind when it comes to milking enterprises for all those dollars."

Robert Thomas, vice president of engineering for the high-tech manufacturing consulting firm of A. S. Thomas Inc. based in Westwood, Mass., agreed with Ou. "Some of what Microsoft is doing is just retiring support for products that are more than two years and typically four years past their end-of-life cycle, having been replaced with newer products. In the software industry, indefinite support for obsolete products has never been the practice."

That said, Thomas also points out, "This announcement is poorly timed and implemented. The various channels and customers were not properly prepared and the messages that pop up and the redirection to a worthless Microsoft information site is at best poor CRM [customer relationship Management]. Microsoft has again left an opportunity for others to gain some income from a dwindling niche market."

Porowski agreed that Windows retirement of these programs, whether premature or not, opens the door for Microsoft alternatives. "In my humble opinion, the soon-to-be-released Linux 2.6 kernel, in conjunction with upcoming support for the XFS file system, will offer a world-class, enterprise-level platform that far surpasses any Microsoft offering. By the time MS Longhorn is officially released, Microsoft will have lost significant market share in the server arena."

Porowski added, "Suns push into the desktop space [Java Desktop Platform] will provide both the security and stability needed for the corporate desktop. What competition GNU/Linux and Sun JDP do not address [the home market] can easily be covered by Mac OS X, if only Sun would bring StarOffice to that platform.

"Microsofts dominance, by way of embrace and extend tactics, have fouled their own nest and nest egg," Porowski concluded. "They have been arrogant in their marketing at a time when adherence to open standards, and to quality software, really counts."

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