Readers Size Up Microsofts Orphaned Software readers varied in how they see Microsoft's retirement of Windows 98, Office 2000 and other important older 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.