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The Life and Death of Microsoft Software 187

Posted by Zonk
from the holding-vista-above-pride-rock dept.
coondoggie writes "With Microsoft aiming to release Vista real soon now, they've been retiring older versions of the Windows OS. For IT outfits it's yet again time to evaluate what stays and what goes, and make plans for the future. Network World discusses the life cycle of Microsoft's software." From the article: "'Generally, it is a bad idea to run unsupported software, but there can be a business case to run it,' says Cary Shufelt, Windows infrastructure architect at Oregon State University, in Corvallis. The university still has some NT machines running in isolation in its labs. But Shufelt says there are security risks in allowing connections to legacy machines and that the university makes sure to minimize those risks. 'We don't allow [Windows] 9.x clients to connect to our Active Directory,' he says. 'But we try to stay current with technology so these issues don't typically come up.' Others say they also stay current to avoid headaches and fire drills."
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The Life and Death of Microsoft Software

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  • hmmm... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:02PM (#15720457)
    all universities should probably start introducting linux in to the schemes since it'll open up things a bit. Eventually turn to all open source to cut costs... not that students would ever see the savings in their tuition. MS and others give educational discounts, mainly so that they can prey on the kids in school and make them addicted to their software and hardware and make them not know of or be schooled on the free/cheap alternatives, so that when they graduate they want to get something, and just get the software/hardware that they've been brought up on. Schools are indirectly creating millions for MS and Adobe... They make much more on the deals indirectly than they lose in giving universities discounted educational software.
  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@smokingcCOFFEEube.be minus caffeine> on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:04PM (#15720473) Homepage
    "We don't allow Win 9x to connect to AD". It's not like there is a huge security risk for having AD run authentication for Win 9x. I can agree that you don't run AD on those boxes, but I have Win NT and Mac OS boxes connecting to AD. I can't change anything in the AD, I can just read stuff everybody else can read. Or is AD broken? In my company there are still Win NT 3 boxes standing around, they are firewalled...
  • by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:20PM (#15720592)
    Vista is also updated from the ground level up. New memory management, caching techniques, security protections, networking stack, audio stack, video driver ring move, etc etc etc...

    It may not 'look' that much different, but has as many differences as NT4 to Win2k did.

    I find articles like the one posted quite suspect. Legacy hardware can easily run WinXP as well, and there is Virtual PC for the hard core legacy apps that can be tightly wrapped in the new OSes security...
  • by Foofoobar (318279) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:25PM (#15720633)
    On the day of the 11th, the day support for all Win 98 systems, I stopped by a Fedex and realized their POS systems (pun intended), were are win98. I let the guy know that Microsoft stops support for them and he said 'good luck getting corporate to upgrade'. At that point I realized that this was a POS system that was sold to them by another compny and that it is most likely that TONS of POS systems still ran 98.

    I suspect that alot of companies at this point may actually decide to replace these systems with Linux based POS to save money and as a result of that, they will see the benefit of using Linux elsewhere as well. The big issue will be that these companies will have to upgrade all their terminals and hardware as well as all their software and potentially, if they just switched to Linux and a Open Source POS system, they could save MILLIONS.

    Feel free to insert opinions here. I'm interested how others think corporate America will respond.
  • by jimicus (737525) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:26PM (#15720640)
    It runs even deeper than that.

    Consider the following scenarios - all fictional, but all perfectly conceivable in any sizeable organisation:

    • App X runs just fine, but is reaching the end of its supported life. Version X+1 has already been discontinued and cannot be licensed, any upgrade has to be to X+2. But there is no upgrade path from X to X+2 unless you want to re-key all several million rows of data, so you've got to go to X+1 first. However you never bought version X+1, so you don't have installation media and, as discussed above, you can't (easily) get it.
    • App X is used exclusively by the finance department and is reaching the end of its supported life. X+1 is available, but it's very expensive. The finance director will have to sign off on any migration plan and he doesn't see the business need to upgrade - after all, version X has always worked so far. He's the one who'll be signing the cheque to buy version X+1. So what if the older version is not supported? We've not needed the support yet. In this case, technically the finance director is in the right - the change is expensive, has a risk attached and has little perceived benefit - however it might be wise for the IT department to have a plan B sitting in the wings in case application X suddenly breaks one day...
    • App X depends heavily on Fred's Shiny Database and will not speak to anything else. The company that developed App X went out of business long ago, but their product is still critical to the business. Nobody's got around to investigating a replacement because the only people in the IT department who even knew it existed were made redundant in the last round of layoffs. Meantime, Fred's Shiny Database Company has been taken over by Ceefax Data Ltd, who are discontinuing Fred's Shiny Database in favour of their own product.
  • by Trouvist (958280) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:36PM (#15720691)
    Apparently you never played Tyrian, Conquest of the New World, Settlers 2, High-Octane or any other game written for DOS that barely ran correctly in windows 98. These games won't run without some sort of workaround, let alone natively, in any operating system newer than Windows 98 SE. Sometimes I like to whip out the virtual machine and play a few oldschool games (the fun ones where there is more interesting things to do and the graphics don't matter). Sometimes, the sound doesn't work correctly in the VM, so having an oldschool pentium laying around with win98 on it can be useful.
  • Re:stupid comentary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mister Whirly (964219) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:55PM (#15720810) Homepage
    Millions of retailers using Win98 on their POS registers...
  • by ChestyLaRueGal (766941) on Friday July 14, 2006 @04:51PM (#15721595) Journal
    I work with two os2 machines (one warp, the other is version 3), one old Mac (os 7 or so), one OS X, several flavors of Windows(95, 98, 2000, and XP), linux and unix. This is the joy of working in a research lab. You buy a piece of equipment and use it til it dies and usually that equipment is tied to an os. So we keep the ancient mac for a specialized scanner, we keep the OS 2 machines for confocal microscopes, keep the windows 95 machine for a different confocal microscope. Lets just say I have learned a lot about keeping things going past their prime.
  • by asphaltjesus (978804) on Friday July 14, 2006 @05:17PM (#15721740)
    As many posts point out, many companies stay on whatever outdated software because it serves their needs and continues to do so.

    Introducing planned obsolescence into your comment(are any machines....) sidesteps the career limiting risks a system administrator faces when her PHB wants a shiny new software application.

    Diverting attention away from Microsoft's security woes by throwing up backward compatibility is a fallacy.
    The big reason microsoft gets into security trouble is the organization has no incentive to provide more security. It's a business: Selling first, security second. I'm glad the situation is so bad because it keeps me gainfully employed.

    Finally, *right now* backward compatibility is totally irrelevant to Microsoft. .Net anyone? What about all of those Visual Basic developers that have moved onto other languages? There are so many other examples. They've got the majority of users and they need to keep them consuming Microsoft products, whatever the cost. Sadly, customers are very forgiving, so they put up with the abuse.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday July 14, 2006 @05:33PM (#15721815) Homepage
    The issue with software is also one of understanding what was happening. The difference between a 1800's era machine shop running off a common shaft and a 777 airliner is that a couple of mechanics could maintain the 1800's machine shop. Or a couple of forklifts. But could a couple of mechanics, without a support organization behind them, deal with a 777 airliner? Hardly.

    The situation we have today with software - even open source software - is that even if you have the source code it is not feasible for the average joe to attempt to "maintain" it in any way. Today a moderate size software project may have 200,000 lines of code and not all of it written to be clearly understood by someone outside the project. You are looking at a huge learning curve to be able to get to the point where you could even begin to intelligently track down bugs.

    If there was no other choice at all, it might be worth making that kind of investment. But, it would require making that investment over and over again due to staff turnover and such. And the rule of off-the-shelf software is there is always another choice. Most commercial IT establishments have figured this out - if some application is discontinued you choose another one. Generally just as cheap and has whatever small subset of functionality that you really need.

    Back in the 1970's companies actually did pay in-house staff to write things like word processing applications, accounting programs and the like. The focus in the last 20 years or so has been to eliminate that kind of staff dependency and just buy solutions.

    I'm not sure open source helps in that environment at all.

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