Analysts have urged users to take extra care when buying extended support from Microsoft after the software giant changed its stated support policy on two operating systems in the past week.
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Microsoft has quietly extended "hot fix" support on Windows 98 by six months to 16 January 2004. This follows its decision last to extend standard support for Windows NT 4.0 by another year until the end of 2004. Support was previously due to end on 31December 2003.
In a paper on extended support from Microsoft, Gartner analyst Michael Silver warned users to take care not to pay for support they might not need.
"Some Gartner clients have already paid for extended support for NT 4.0 Workstation into 2005." With the changes in policy, these extended support agreements are no longer required."
He urged users to include clauses in their support contracts with software suppliers that allow them to take advantage of future policy changes.
Mark Blower, senior researcher at Butler Group, said that any change in a support policy would affect the original support contract. "Users are paying a premium for extended support." In the light of the recent changes he said, "Users have to question whether extended support is the best option."
Lars Ahlgren, senior marketing manager at Microsoft, admitted users would expect Microsoft to stick with its published timeline for stopping support. But in the company's defence he said, "We are being flexible to customers' needs."