The End Of An Era

[Editor's note: Shortly after this issue went to press Microsoft relented and has extended the support periods for Windows 98 and Windows Me until June 2006, to match the life cycle of later products. Click here for more details. However it still sounds like Microsoft will only provides security fixes upon request instead of proactively.]

January, 2004, marks an important milestone for Microsoft customers. In January, Microsoft will end official support for many popular products, with no further security fixes to be released. These products include Office 97 and its components (such as Word 97 and Excel 97), Outlook 98, Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition, Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 98/98SE, Exchange Server 5.5, Windows XP, and other products. Windows XP with Service Pack 1 will still be supported, and Microsoft recently extended support for Windows NT 4.0 Server through December 2004, though it, too, was scheduled to end.

No More Updates

What does this mean for users? For starters Microsoft has no plans to issue further security updates or hotfixes (bug fixes) for unsupported operating systems or application software. We also expect most new programs from Microsoft will not run on Windows 98; for example Office 2003 requires Windows 2000 or Windows XP. We expect other companies to eventually follow suit in dropping support for Windows 98, as their ability to obtain support from Microsoft dwindles.

After January, users will not be able to call Microsoft for technical support, even on a paid basis...they must use the online self-help support resources, which Microsoft will make available for at least one year after paid support and security update support ends. In early 2005, then, we could all face the possibility of no support whatsoever for these products.

Future Planning

Given the frequent security updates Microsoft has issued for Windows, Internet Explorer, and even Office and other programs, we feel our clients should strongly
consider migrating their older PCs to Windows XP. Remaining with Windows 98 almost invites trouble, since Microsoft would have no plans to fix any future security holes that are discovered in Windows 98 or Internet Explorer on that platform.

The result is an opportunity for organizations to replace aging hardware and outdated software, improving staff productivity in the process. Likely any PCs running
Windows 98 are three to six years old by now, and out of warranty as well.

Let us say for example that a user whose PC has a Pentium II 300MHz), Windows 98, and a 15-inch monitor were to upgrade to a new PC. Yes, there is some expense to do so, however there will be productivity gains. A new PC would probably run at least five times faster, between the faster CPU, motherboard, memory, and hard drive. A 17-inch LCD monitor (about equal to an 18-inch CRT) would not only save power but eliminate a lot of time spent scrolling around spreadsheets, web site pages, and other documents, by virtue of its higher resolution - a monitor running at a resolution of 1024x768 has over 60% more screen area than one set at 800x600. Plus, Windows XP runs multiple programs much better than Windows 98, which had a limited pool of "resources" to allocate to programs.

Using the calculations in our previous article, Time Is Money - But How Much? one would expect a mere 15 minutes per day of time savings for a $40,000 employee to result in a $1,250 cost savings (productivity increase) per year.

January 2004

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