Microsoft support warning

Analysts have urged users to take extra care when buying extended support for software from Microsoft following a week in which...

Analysts have urged users to take extra care when buying extended support for software from Microsoft following a week in which the software giant changed its stated support policy on two operating systems.

With Windows NT 4.0 no longer being developed, Microsoft has announced that standard support for the operating system would be extended until the end of 2004. Support was previously due to end on 31 December 2003. Hot-fix support for Windows 98 was also extended by six months to 16 January 2004.

Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner, warned users that if they are not careful they may find themselves paying extra for support they do not need. Since Microsoft was willing to change policy to meet customer demands, Silver said users might pay up-front for extended support that they then find is not required due to a policy change from Microsoft.

Silver said, "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. Silver 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 analyst firm Butler Group, said any change in a support policy would affect the original support contract. "Users are paying a premium for extended support," he said. "In the light of the recent changes, users have to question whether extended support is the best option."

Lars Ahlgren, senior marketing manager at Microsoft, said he recognised that users 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."

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