IoT
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
7/17/2006
10:38 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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Microsoft Takes Another Step Away From SOHO, Home Users

Microsoft cut off support for Windows 98 and Windows Millenium Edition (ME) last week. It was not a very responsible decision. There are still plenty of PCs running 98 and ME out there, and denying them the protection of security updates will make them vectors of infection for PCs running supported Windows versions in the long run. Microsoft might like to pooh-pooh the issue, but its own actions tell you something about the size of the problem: It felt it had to announce a solution for its corp

Microsoft cut off support for Windows 98 and Windows Millenium Edition (ME) last week. It was not a very responsible decision. There are still plenty of PCs running 98 and ME out there, and denying them the protection of security updates will make them vectors of infection for PCs running supported Windows versions in the long run.

Microsoft might like to pooh-pooh the issue, but its own actions tell you something about the size of the problem: It felt it had to announce a solution for its corporate customers -- small-business and home users need not apply.Microsoft's answer is Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, something that's been kicking around for half a decade, sometimes under the code name "Eiger." WFLP comes with a disclaimer on the Microsoft Web site that says it is not a general-purpose operating system. It is designed to work with the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection client or third-party clients such as the Citrix ICA client.

WFLP is essentially a thin-client OS based on Microsoft Windows XP Embedded Service Pack 2 (SP2) intended for "customers who have older computers running earlier operating systems and who are not in a position to purchase new hardware."

The message is that there are enough 98/ME legacy machines still running in Corporate America that Microsoft sees a revenue opportunity. The key is that WFLP is available only to Microsoft Software Assurance customers. Microsoft wants more Software Assurance customers because they're cash cows that can be milked for multiple years.

So if you're a corporate customer willing to lay it on the line for Software Assurance you can get WFLP, "enabling you to upgrade to the security and stability of the Microsoft Windows XP platform."

But if you're a small-business or home user of 98/ME who wants security and stability what are your options now that support has been zapped? Approximately zip.

Which leaves me with a question. If Microsoft can package a version of XP SP2 security for one market, why can't it do it for another? The reasonsWFLP is not a general-purpose operating system have nothing to do with computer technology and everything to do with revenue control. Microsoft doesn't want 98/ME customers. It wants XP customers with Vista-ready hardware.

But there are millions of 98/ME users out there quite happily checking their e-mail and balancing their checkbooks on x86 machines. Why is it that Microsoft, supposedly one of the most creative companies on the planet, can't deliver the security and stability of XP -- and it really has some good features -- to them? These same PC users are paying Symantec $45 a year for the latest version of Norton Internet Security. Don't you think Microsoft would be smart enough to make that model work and turn a profit on protecting not just the 98/ME users, but all of us who live in the Windows ecosystem? Apparently not.

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