Microsoft's extension of the support period for the Windows 98 product family earlier this week was a move intended largely to discourage the adoption of Linux in emerging markets, according to Gartner. The research outfit concludes that the move comes too late for it to be relevant to enterprise migration plans, but that extra life support for 98 could be important to Microsoft elsewhere.
"At this point," says Gartner, "most of the population still running Windows 98 may be less motivated to make, and less able to afford, a quick move to XP and may be more interested in Linux compared with those still running NTW4. Thus, Microsoft runs more risk for less benefit to push these users to upgrade than for large enterprises running NTW4, where Microsoft has more opportunity for upgrade revenue and where Linux is less of a threat."
Gartner notes that NT Workstation 4.0 did not win a lifespan transfusion. Paid-incident support and non-security hotfix support for this ended on 30th June last year, and it gets its final Norwegian Blue award this coming June. Gartner has some interesting figures, which it bashfully claims aren't statistically significant, but which nevertheless seem telling.
Approximately 5.7 per cent of PCs at surveyed companies ran Windows 98 in October or November 2003, and these companies planned to have this figure down to 0.3 per cent by the end of this year - i.e., 98 is leaving the enterprise this year, and Microsoft support policy changes are not going to stop that. But 19 per cent of these companies' PCs were running NTW4, and 6.4 per cent were still expected to be doing so by the end of this year. Remember some years back when Microsoft was telling businesses that NT 4.0 was the approved client? Well obviously this had some impact, because a significant percentage of business clients are still going to be running an unsupported operating system into the second half of this year and beyond, whereas very few of them will be running the ones that gained the support extension.
Globally the picture is quite different. Gartner estimates that 26.7 per cent of PCs ran 98 or 98 SE at the end of 2003, and that 15.3 per cent will still do so at the end of 2004. 6.4 per cent of the "general population" runs NTW4, with 3.1 per cent expected to do so by year end. So NTW4 gets culled as planned, because the businesses will go to XP anyway, while the general population of 98 users wins extra support, because they're unlikely to be able to afford the XP switch. ®