Like most consumers, people buy high-tech products in the hope that they make their lives easier & more productive. Whether or not the product actually succeeds in doing that, we all know that it has a lifespan, and at some point it will finally lose its usefulness or ability to serve our needs. Although the reasons vary somewhat, computer software is no different.
Virtually all software makers provide some form of support for their product. This often includes security patches and bug fixes that are released to alleviate issues that have been discovered after the software was purchased. It may also include phone or email assistance. Regardless of what support options are offered to the consumer, a company can't support a product forever.
As computer operating systems are by far the largest type of software product and the hardest to service (due to their complexity), changes in service are the most difficult for consumers to deal with. As a result, most operating system makers have highly detailed plans that allow them to manage and define product support life cycles. And because all other computer programs run atop it, operating systems tend to have very long life cycles.
Most PC users are probably unaware that on July 11th of this year, Microsoft ended what they call "extended support" for Windows 98 (including Windows 98 Second Edition) and Windows Millennium Edition (popularly known as "Windows ME"). Microsoft also has intentions to end all "public assisted support" for Windows XP Service Pack 1 (or older) on October 10th, later this year.
What does this mean to consumers?
For starters, security updates and bug fixes will no longer be available for Windows 98 (all versions) and Windows Millennium Edition ("ME") via the online Windows Update service (Microsoft has already ended extended support for all versions of Windows 95). This means that Microsoft will not provide new fixes or patches in response to any newly discovered security vulnerabilities or stability issues in these versions of Windows.
For Windows XP users (who have Service Pack 1 installed), it means no more "incident support options" or security updates as defined by the "Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy." However, Windows XP users can continue to receive support (which includes incident support options and security updates) if they install Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. The service pack can be easily downloaded, free of charge, via the Windows Update service (or downloaded for offline installation (on a CD or other device, for example) for those that don't have a fast and reliable Internet connection).
These support changes doesn't mean consumers can't continue using Windows 95, 98, Millennium Edition or XP (with Service Pack 1 or older). It simply means Microsoft isn't going to provide support for them. In other words, consumers will be "on their own" if they choose to continue using these products beyond the end of support dates.
Microsoft has chosen, however, to continue availability of existing support documents and content on the Microsoft Support Product Solution Center web site, as a self-help center where users can search for answers on their own.
And what about Windows 2000? On June 30, 2005, Microsoft transitioned Windows 2000 from "Mainstream support" to "Extended support." Windows 2000 products (including Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server, Datacenter Server, and Windows 2000 Professional) will continue to receive extended support until June of 2010.
Microsoft is also encouraging everyone using older versions of Windows to upgrade to Windows XP (with Service Pack 2 installed) for "improved security, richer functionality, and increased productivity."
Please visit this website for official details and further information relating to end of support for Windows 98, ME and Windows XP Service Pack 1: click here.
And please visit this website for official details and information about extended support for Windows 2000: click here.
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