Windows 98, the OS that just won't die

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Did you see it? Probably not. I didn't even see a press release.

Here's the salient information:

"Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition support was scheduled to end

on January 16, 2004. However, continual evaluation of the Support

Lifecycle policy revealed that customers in the smaller and the emerging

markets needed additional time to upgrade their product. Therefore,

Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, and Windows Me will continue to

be supported after January 16, 2004."

Here are the key dates you need to know about:

-- Paid incident support for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, and

Windows Millennium Edition (Me) is available through June 30, 2006.

-- Customers can request security fixes for Windows 98, Windows 98

Second Edition, Windows Me, and the most current version of their

components until June 30, 2006 through normal assisted-support channels.

-- Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, and Windows Me downloads for

existing security issues will continue to be available through regular

assisted-support channels at no charge until June 30, 2006.

-- No-charge incident support and extended hotfix support for Windows 98

and Windows 98 Second Edition ended on June 30, 2003.

-- No-charge incident support and extended hotfix support for Windows Me

ended on December 31, 2003.

-- Online self-help support will be available until at least June 30,

2007.

At this rate, Windows 98 may be the world's oldest supported operating

system. Even I have to admit that companies can't support products

forever. It dilutes their resources and keeps them from their appointed

mission of selling upgrades. But you've got to wonder what factors

played into this decision.

The announcement says that Win 98 support is being extended because

customers in "smaller and the emerging markets" needed more time to

upgrade. (There's that "u" word again. And I assume that means upgrade

to Windows XP.)

Well, just what is an "emerging market?" Is it geographic, perhaps

independent nations once part of the USSR? Or is it a burgeoning

vertical market, one that Microsoft hasn't quite tapped into yet? And

what is a "smaller" market? Is that a place with a modest population, or

a highly specialized industry that is practiced by only a few? Beats the

heck out of me.

It would have been pretty easy to discontinue support in North America

and the European Union while extending it in eastern Europe, Africa, and

Asia. But that didn't happen.

Too bad. Unless you've tapped into an enormous revenue stream of

supporting these bygone operating platforms, it's good for everybody to

move to Windows XP (or Linux, or maybe even Mac OS X). I sure don't want

to spend my days dredging my memory, trying to recall how things were

done in Windows 98 (and Windows 95). And for technical personnel to stay

up on Win 98 security issues just isn't something that's going to be

profitable.

Unfortunately, we come across businesses (I wouldn't call them

corporations) that swear by their Win 95 or Win 98 PCs. The job gets

done, the memos get written, and the cost of buying new PCs and copies

of Office is avoided. It's that concept of "good-enoughness" that you've

read about here before. I've even run across several small law offices

that still pledge allegiance to WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. Sure, it's one

the great productivity applications of all time, and lawyers love it for

its ability to create tables of authorities, but Word does this, too.

So what to do? Well, you can no longer walk into an account and tell

them they are running an unsupported operating system. You could simply

decline to support Win 98 PCs. Or you could provide support, but only

for an exorbitant fee. Or you could just grin and bear it. And in the

end, that's probably what most solutions integrators will do, not

because you want to, but because you have to so that you don't

jeopardize other business with these customers.

But we thrive on confusion, don't we?

Note: You can read the official Microsoft support extension notification

at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=fh;[ln];lifean1

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