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Microsoft Details Plans For Ending the NT 4 Party

Microsoft Corp. has said that it plans to officially support Windows NT 4.0 through July 1, 2003 –- at which point the operating system will no longer be available from VARs or channel resellers. But the software giant recently stepped up its efforts to distance itself from its aging operating system platform.

In early October, for example, Microsoft stopped selling Windows NT volume licenses, forcing customers who want to deploy new Windows NT systems to purchase more expensive Windows 2000 licenses, instead.

Finally, last week, the software giant unveiled a long-term support schedule for Windows NT 4.0 that calls for the elimination of packaged versions of Windows NT Server and Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition from the retail channel by July 1, 2002.

And slightly more than a year from now –- effective January 1, 2003 -– Microsoft plans to introduce fee-based support for, among other things, bug fixes and Windows NT non-security hotfixes. The following year, effective January 1, 2004, Microsoft plans to end non-security hotfix updates altogether. And as of January 1, 2005, online Windows NT support will disappear altogether.

As a result of the software giant’s maneuverings, Dan Kusnetzky, director of worldwide operating environments with IDC, expects that IT organizations will feel pressure to escalate their Windows 2000 deployment plans over the next year-and-a-half.

“We are expecting that Windows 2000 will come to be the predominant software that people are using very rapidly because of some of the things that Microsoft has done to shorten the life of Windows NT beyond what customers expect,” Kusnetzky speculates. “They’re probably going to try to stop supporting it, and they’ll lean heavily on the fact that it’s five year old software, as if they introduced an interim version before [Windows 2000].”

The problem, Kusnetzky and others say, is that Windows NT 4.0 remains a viable platform for file-and-print services and even for electronic messaging. “The number one use [for Windows NT 4.0] is as a file-and-print server, number two was for messaging, and number three was to be basically a network router,” he explains. “And for most of those purposes, NT will continue to get the job done.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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