Microsoft looking to Linux with W98 move

A desire to head off the threat from Linux lies behind Microsoft’s decision to extend support for Windows 98, according to analyst firm Gartner.

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By  Peter Branton Published  January 18, 2004

A desire to head off the threat from Linux lies behind Microsoft’s decision to extend support for Windows 98, according to analyst firm Gartner. Microsoft this month back tracked on plans to pull the plug on its venerable operating system Windows 98 with the decision to continue supporting it until well in 2006. The company said the decision was in response to customer needs, especially in “smaller and emerging markets”. In an advisory, Gartner claims this decision is most likely motivated by the company’s concern that Windows 98 customers won’t be interested in moving to XP but will more likely consider Linux instead. “At this point, most of the population still running Windows may be less motivated to make, and less able to afford, a quick move to XP and may be more interested in Linux,” the note says. Paid-for phone support for the OS was due to end on 16 January this year, with users only being able to get limited online help. That deadline has now been extended to 30 June 2006, along with support for Windows 98 SE and Windows Millennium Edition. As well as paid support the company will also “continue to review any critical security issues and take appropriate steps” it said. However, it has not extended support for Windows NT Workstation 4, and Gartner believes this is because these customers will be more likely to upgrade than Windows 98 customers. While Microsoft said previously Windows 98 had reached the end of its life cycle, it is still a very popular OS, with a massive installed base. As many as 40% of users in the Middle East were still using one of W98, W98 SE, or Me last year, according to the Windows Middle East reader survey of 2003. Analyst firm IDC estimates there are as many as 39 million Windows 98 users worldwide. According to Gartner, those customers that can afford to leave the three Windows platforms should do so anyway: “Microsoft’s decision to extend support for these three products comes too late for most enterprises to do any effective planning,” it warns. “Enterprises should not slow down plans to move off Windows 98 – support for Windows 98 on newer hardware and software is sporadic, and slowing down a move only prolongs the inevitable.”

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