No More Microsoft Support For You

Why is Microsoft killing off so many of its programs? Redmond says Sun forced its hand, but its reach will extend into your wallet.

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.