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Microsoft Puts Plug Back in on 9.x Support

Tens of thousands of organizations worldwide running Windows 98 got a breather on Monday when Microsoft formally announced it was adding 30 months to the product's extended support phase, which had been scheduled to end on Friday.

Extended support will now last until June 30, 2006 for Windows 98, Windows 98 SE and Windows Me, a consumer-oriented operating system that is also built on the Windows 9.x kernel. Other Microsoft client operating systems, including Windows 2000 and Windows XP, are built on the Windows NT kernel.

The new lease on the life of extended support means customers will still be able to call Microsoft for paid incident support on the three operating systems, and that Microsoft will continue to provide security patches for the platforms. Extended support is the second and final phase in Microsoft's official support policy. By the book, regular support is supposed to last five years from a product's release, followed by two years of extended support.

The extension continues a recent pattern at Microsoft of relenting on self-imposed product support deadlines under customer pressure. Late last year, for example, Microsoft moved the extended support deadline for Windows NT 4.0 Server from Dec. 31, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2004. The extensions have largely come on products that pre-dated the support policy, which was officially unveiled in October 2002, and therefore carried more arbitrary support deadlines.

Microsoft's change this week, however, comes despite company officials' eagerness to get Windows 98 users off the less secure and reliable Windows 9.x kernel and onto the Windows NT kernel.

"Microsoft made this decision to accommodate customers worldwide who are still dependent upon these operating systems and to provide Microsoft more time to communicate its product lifecycle support guidelines in a handful of markets -- particularly smaller and emerging markets," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. "Microsoft also wanted to bring Windows 98 SE into compliance with the company's current lifecycle policy for new products, which provides for support for seven years instead of the original four."

The decision to create a common deadline for all three client products was aimed at providing "a clear and consistent date for support conclusion for all of these older products," the Microsoft spokesperson said. Windows Me support had originally been scheduled to end Dec. 31, 2004.

Microsoft plans to post the changes to its official support site, support.microsoft.com/lifecycle, on Jan. 15.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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