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The Life and Death of Microsoft Software 187

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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  • by also-rr ( 980579 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:01PM (#15720438) Homepage
    We have a piece of Microsoft software, X. An application Y outputs its data to application X. So far so good...

    It does this by (during the export process) loading the software X. Don't ask me why, I didn't write it.

    Microsoft app X+1 is now available. App Y *will not export* to app X+1 because the executable has been moved and it can't talk to the new version anyway.

    The App Y developers could fix this... but they wont because they have moved onto App Y+1 which we don't want to buy (not yet mature enough). App X is no longer available in the company and we cannot buy licenses for a variety of reasons (mostly due to integration and the fact that version X and X+1 running together cause major problems). There are no other export options except to pay for monkeys to retype all the data - on a weekly basis.

    Software upgrades and end of support can attack you in the posterior in unexpected ways, and sticking with old software may not be an option. If you have given away the ability to make your own modifications, or put your data into formats you cannot read, you better make sure it's in your risk register.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:02PM (#15720453)
    There are rather few "good" reasons for the everyday user to buy Vista (unless it comes bundled with a new PC anyway). There have been many incentives to switch from NT to 2k (USB support), or even from 2k to XP (better support for a lot of hardware). But so far, the big "visible" incentive (aside of the 3D interface) is the DX10 support. Now, that's not something you can sell to a company. What for does a company need a component that mainly carters to gamers? Actually, most would love to NOT have it.

    Also, there's the big black cloud of DRM that hovers over Vista, where pretty much nobody really knows yet just how dark it will be. Many people will abstain until that fog cleared, definitly something neither MS nor the content industry would enjoy. So, another incentive will be that certain content will only be available to you if you use Vista and its stronger DRM.

    Another thing that doesn't bother companies too much. Actually, yet another incentive NOT to migrate, so your employees can't waste their time watching youtube.

    What does bother companies, though, is support. So the faster support for XP ceases to exist, the faster companies will migrate. So, let the spinning start.

    Whoopsie, already started.
  • by suggsjc ( 726146 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:04PM (#15720472) Homepage
    I'm not trying to flame here, but whenever a topic like this comes up there will always be someone posting about how they've had the same *nix/BSD box running for X years.

    I do understand the concept of legacy hardware and software, and that if it ain't broke... However, almost EVERYTHING has a given lifecycle. I don't think that software should be any different. People are going to complain that M$ stops supporting their older OS'es (especially close to a new OS release) but honestly, how long should they be responsible for maintaining the code?
    I hear the statement that "we paid for the they should support it." In the open source realm, most people don't pay for the software, just for support and updates. So, in that same respect the people that bought windows paid up front for their support and maintenance, but how long should that be for? Is that something that should be included in the license...we guarantee to support this product for X years?

    Sorry for the slight rant, but I know how people like to get all uppity about this stuff. But at least in this case I think it is completely justifiable.
  • by mhollis ( 727905 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:05PM (#15720488) Journal

    Despite Microsoft's Windoze vulnerabilities, we may be running some pretty old code for a while. We're international and pretty reluctant to export technology and software to certain countries, like Russia and China.

    Most of our desktops that run Microsoft Office applications are running Windows 2000 Pro. We have a few high-end workstations that run XP and they may be upgraded to XP-64 if we can solve a particular problem with some software (there are no 64-bit Quicktime codecs for Windoze and we're reliant on Quicktime for a lot of our media files as it can deal with keying).

    Our servers range from pee cees running Windoze to pee cees running Linux to Apple X-Serves. But on the desktop, we're still using some pretty old code because it's too expensive to upgrade and there is the potential that we'd be exporting a means by which someone may pirate Microsoft software.

  • Fire drills (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:15PM (#15720558) Homepage
    Others say they also stay current to avoid headaches and fire drills.

    Strange. I always though staying current was a headache and a fire drill.

    (Heck, I still use 9.x on my kids' computers. Works fine for their software, and they're usually not on the internet. When they are it's behind a NATed firewall and using firefox.)
  • by alexborges ( 313924 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:30PM (#15720659)
    Active directory has been elevated to any degree of an interesting piece of infrastructure.

    AD is a souped up directory server with stupid lockin code on the clients.

    Its all it is and its pretty sucky at that.
  • by jtyost2 ( 964236 ) <justin.yost@yostivanic h . c om> on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:39PM (#15720713) Homepage
    Acutally there is a whole host of companies even Fortune 500 companies running Windows 98. Dumb, yeah but cheap for the companies. Money wins over common sense far too often.
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:41PM (#15720722) Homepage Journal
    In the industrial setting you refer to, you can maintain a staff of master mechanics to craft replacements parts and perform repairs when needed (sure, sometimes you may need to bring in outside help, but for day-to-day, it works). A few years ago I supported a distribution center in Indianapolis which ran on that same model. They had cheap forklifts from the early 70's, and had two mechanics on staff who maintained them in-house. You're right, at some point, it becomes the wise financial choice to bring in new equipment and reduce the maintenance group, but those kinds of situations tend to linger far longer than you'd expect (there's always a hotter project to spend that capital on).

    When it comes to modern technology, however, the majority of commercial software doesn't include the source code, so you're left at the mercy of the vendor.
  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:49PM (#15720774) Journal
    It is most likely because of the ease with which you can bypass 9X security.If you actually want to know who is on your network it would be foolish to allow Win9X machines as all you have to do to bypass login is press cancel.

    That said,I think Microsoft will find it a lot easier to get companies to toss Win9X than it will be to get them to toss Win2K Pro and WinXP Pro when Vista comes out.The 9X line was notorius for being crashprone and buggy,whereas Win2K Pro and WinXP Pro are very capable OSes.And from what I've seen (have a couple of friends running Vista Beta 2 at the moment) Vista is going to run even worse on older hardware than WinXP does.So I'm betting a lot of the smaller companies stick with what they've got and simply replace their boxes with new Vista boxes only when the older ones die off.

  • by plusser ( 685253 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:50PM (#15720783)
    Just because a product is old, it does not mean that the product is obsolete. That is something that the IT industry needs to learn.

    The Automotive industry is a good example. Suppose you bought a brand new car today, you would expect that you would be able to operate that vehicle for a number of years, after all it is a big investment. However, if the vendor said after 4 years that the engine could no longer be maintained and that it must be immediately replaced at your cost, you would not be very impressed. You would be tempted to perform your own DIY and install your own engine from a different vendor.

    Thing is, Microsoft in recent years has tried to market a versions of Windows for embedded applications. When users of these operating systems realise that after 4 years that microsoft will expect you to upgrade a major piece of equipment as they no longer support the software it is based on, the customers are not going to be happy.

    An old computer may run old software, but there is every chance that in every other respect that it may still be just as useful as a new one. The computer may have features that are no longer supported such as ISA cards or serial ports that are required to operate certain useful external equipment and embedded applications. In essence the cost of upgrading the computer operating system may be much greater than requesting that existing software is maintained. Unfortuately this is one area where Microsoft are running the risk of loosing the plot.

    As for Microsoft saying that Windows ME is 6 years old and is therefore unsupportable, until 4 and a half years ago it was the latest operating system for home computers. XP isn't even 5 years old yet, but one thing is certain, if Microsoft imsists that I upgrade to Vista within the next 2 years, I will upgrade to Linux or OSX.
  • by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <slashdot.stango@org> on Friday July 14, 2006 @03:13PM (#15720938) Homepage Journal
    Users may have custom software that does not work on new versions of Windows... could present IT challenges as Microsoft retires old products...

    That's why Microsoft has such a hard-on for virtualization-- they want businesses to buy shiny new Windows 2003 servers and run, for example, their business-critical NT 4.0 legacy app that hasn't been updated, in a virtual machine on that server.

    That's exactly why they bought Virtual PC from Connectix.

  • by HoboMaster ( 639861 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @03:28PM (#15721040)
    Or, they could not upgrade at all and save yet more money over Linux. A company like FedEx isn't going to get rid of their old POS machines just because the underlying OS isn't officially supported anymore. They're gonna use the things until the fall apart. As another poster said, I've seen quite a few POS machines still on Win 95 and going strong. Like the guy said: "good luck getting corporate to upgrade." Corporations like that don't upgrade until they're forced to.
  • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Friday July 14, 2006 @03:56PM (#15721231)
    The factory would be in a position to
    - create the needed replacement parts themselves
    - pay the original creator to fix the problem
    - pay some new person to fix the problem
    - abandon some or all of the systems and retrofit something else in its place

    Now, you might say "ok, but if the engine had failed, wouldn't any engine work as long as it had a shaft outout and spun the same direction at the same speed?"

    Probably, with some work. I assure you, i cannot go and put my BMW's engine in my Audi and have it all just "work".

    So, how did we answer these questions? Or at least we try?

    Open standards and interchangeable parts.

    Sure there is always going to be some degree of customization because the standards or interchangeable parts will never satisfy every situation and every case, but an engine swap would be impossible if it were not for standard hex nut sizes, and things like that.

    Computers are still new, and they are becoming more commodity and interchangeable over time. For the most part, you can have the hardware and software of your choice and share things like the web, email, pictures, music, movies, etc. Tons of stuff.

    Now, there are custom apps or environments that do not always conform to standards because there is not one, nor is there enough of a market to create one. And that is where you pick an environment, for good/bad/indifferent, block it off from the outside world, and then DON'T TOUCH IT.

  • by QRDeNameland ( 873957 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @04:07PM (#15721304)

    As for Microsoft saying that Windows ME is 6 years old and is therefore unsupportable, until 4 and a half years ago it was the latest operating system for home computers.

    It has nothing to do with age; Windows 2000 came out *before* ME, and IIRC they won't be ending W2K support until 2011. The difference is that W2K actually worked and was widely adopted (especially by business), where ME was largely regarded as the biggest piece of crap OS Microsoft ever excreted and never had a large install base compared to 95, 98, 2K, or XP.

    In other words, they end support when they figure they can get away with it without too much grief.

  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @04:11PM (#15721338) Journal
    In the sense that I can call somebody on the phone.

    yet I still run it.
  • by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @04:16PM (#15721372) Journal
    "or even from 2k to XP (better support for a lot of hardware)."

    This is a lie and you are spreading FUD. Support for hardware comes in the form of drivers from the software companies. Just because microsoft writes some of their super special drivers doesnt mean that the os is devoid of support if those super special drivers arent there. No major hardware company has dropped support for windows 2000. Theres a good reason for that too, the underlying layer hasnt changed. In win2k its just not loaded with all the extra buggy crap that xp is. XP is like shit smeared over a marble fascade.

    The one superficial difference is that win2k doesnt have a wireless client built in. As every wireless card ive ever seen comes with its own wireless client, this is not even an issue.
    2k is the best operating system ever made by microsoft. XP is buggy as hell and makes way too many decisions for you...

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @04:41PM (#15721527)
    Flat belts and line shafting survived for such a long time because they were open, adaptable, and modular.
    They worked with power sources like windmills and water wheels, then steam engines, and later electric motors.
    If driven equipment had a stoppage, the belts could slip and spare the drivetrain. New parts were simple to make on basic lathes.Speeds were easy to change by swapping pulleys. Bearings were easy to make (and recycle, in the case of Babbit metal).
    New belting was as close as the nearest cow. :)
    Wonderful stuff, and absolutely vital to the Industrial Revolution.
  • by CCFreak2K ( 930973 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @06:46PM (#15722225) Homepage Journal
    Actually, it's like saying that your brand new car won't be serviced by the dealer if it breaks after 5 years, except if there's a known problem with the car. Five more years later, the dealer won't fix it anymore, period. You can, of course, choose from any of this year's NEW models...

    The point is, Microsoft isn't MAKING you upgrade; they're just creating an incentive for you to upgrade. You can go on using whatever software you're using for however longer you want, but don't expect Microsoft to support it.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.