Putting Windows 98 on Ice
- By Scott Bekker
On July 11, Microsoft will officially retire support for Windows
98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Me.
Microsoft has been phasing out the three Win9.x-based platforms
for years. One major step, taken in 2004, was limiting security
updates only to critical issues. Other supported Microsoft operating
systems, such as Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, get additional
patches for security vulnerabilities in Microsoft's low, moderate
and important categories.
On June 30, 2003, Microsoft formally ended both no-charge incident
support and extended hotfix, or bug-fix, support for Windows 98
and Windows 98 Second Edition. No-charge incident support and extended
hotfix support were shuttered for Windows Me on Dec. 31, 2003. Officially
ending for all three systems on July 11 are:
- Paid incident support
- Critical security updates on the Windows Update site
- Consideration of customer requests for non-critical security
fixes on the three operating systems and their components through
standard assisted-support channels
- No-charge downloads for existing security issues through regular
This isn't Microsoft's first attempt to completely cut support
for the Windows 98/SE/Me group. Microsoft originally planned to
scrap support for the platforms on Jan. 16, 2004. Just before that
date, Microsoft reversed course, extending the deadline until the
end of this month. Microsoft explained its decision by saying that
its ongoing evaluation of its Support Lifecycle policy, which lays
out periods of mainstream and extended support for Microsoft products,
revealed that customers in smaller and emerging markets needed more
time to upgrade. IDC, the Framingham, Mass.-based IT research and
analysis company, estimated that, at the end of 2003, nearly 60
million PCs were still running Windows 98.
Windows 98 was launched on June 25, 1998,
at an event in San Francisco. Following is a sampling
of what else was happening in the world around
the same time:
$1.05 Cost of a
gallon of regular gasoline
Jones Industrial Average
Osama bin Laden
Implicated in the bombings of two U.S. embassies
Ken Starr Appointed
to head investigation of Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky
saga that dominates Washington, D.C.
$14.48 billion Microsoft's
recorded annual revenues for fiscal 1998
share closing on June 30
That original deadline was one of the first major tests of the
company's Lifecycle Support policy, and Microsoft flinched by acquiescing
to user requests for additional time.
This year, IDC expects Windows 98 usage to fall fast. "The
installed base for Windows 98 currently accounts for about 8.7 percent
of the overall Windows client OS total," says Al Gillen, IDC's
research vice president for system software. "By the end of
this year, that number should drop to under 3 percent of the total.
The time for Microsoft to drop support, if not now, would surely
be in the near future. Windows 98 has been replaced by two consumer
releases and two business releases."
Customers -- and the partners supporting them -- will have ways
to hang on to Windows 98 if they must. Microsoft has committed to
leaving self-help support online until at least June 30, 2007. But
Microsoft clearly doesn't want customers to stay on Win9.x indefinitely,
and that stance isn't all about upgrade revenues. With the release
of Windows XP in 2001, Microsoft achieved a longstanding ambition
of bringing its consumer operating systems onto the more secure
and stable Windows NT code base. Since the release of Windows 2000,
Microsoft has implored businesses to get off Windows 9.x onto its
more robust business client operating systems. New security vulnerabilities
continue to dog the Win9.x platform, with many of the issues discovered
this year raising critical threats to users of Windows 98/SE/Me.
Back on Jan. 16, 2004, it might have seemed to partners that the
new support deadline would be a good opportunity to talk customers
into Windows Longhorn (now Vista) upgrades. At the time, few probably
imagined that Windows Vista still wouldn't be available by June
2006, let alone until early in 2007. (Analysts at Gartner even recently
predicted that the new OS won't make it out the door until the second
quarter of 2007.) Users now have the option of hanging on with an
unsupported platform or investing the time and effort to upgrade
to a Windows XP operating system that's already five years old.
Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.