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Heat's On Win2000 Holdouts

Heat's On Win2000 Holdouts Microsoft limits support and new apps--whether customers like it or not

Microsoft has a monopoly share of desktop operating system sales and can pretty much call the shots when it comes to support. Software publishers with smaller market shares tend to take a more benign view of customers who want to keep their older products running.

Sun Microsystem offers support, paid and otherwise, for its Solaris operating system for at least five years after a version stops being sold. Microsoft's five-year mainstream period begins the first day its products ship.

Sun also maintains at least two major releases of Solaris on sale at all times. At present, Solaris is available in three versions: 8, 9, and 10.

According to Chris Ratcliffe, Sun's director of Solaris marketing, the company is still supporting users of version 2.6, which is more than 10 years old and hasn't been commercially available since 2002. But Sun's "vintage support" period means the operating system is fully supported through 2007, Ratcliffe says.

Even after 2007, it isn't curtains for the older technology. "We're prepared to go into negotiations with customers on an individual basis," Ratcliffe says. For instance, Sun continues to support Solaris version 2.5.1, which first shipped in 1995, on a case-by-case basis, he says.

Why do companies want to keep using such old software? Besides the labor cost of testing and installing the changed code, newer software often demands more expensive hardware. It's cheaper in many cases to let the old stuff keep running.

Other companies simply don't feel any need to tamper with important systems that are working as desired. "People who are shipping hundreds of thousands of packages a day tend to build scanning solutions," Ratcliffe says, by way of example. "You build 'em and you leave 'em."

Microsoft's policies for life cycle support are well defined. If you can live with the five-year horizon, you can persevere. If not, other vendors can offer you a much longer window--so to speak.

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