Microsoft Scraps Windows 98 Support, Focuses on Future

Microsoft is moving out with the old and in with the new.

As of Tuesday, the company has ended public support, including security updates, for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium Edition. However, Tuesday also marked Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston, where the company provided an optimistic view of its new technology to more than 7,000 attendees.

Microsoft is retiring support for the Windows 98 products “because they are outdated and can expose customers to security risks,” according to the company.

“We recommend that customers who are still running Windows 98 or Windows Me upgrade to a newer, more secure Microsoft operating system, such as Windows XP, as soon as possible. Customers who upgrade to Windows XP report improved security, richer functionality and increased productivity,” Microsoft says.

Up next, Microsoft will end all public-assisted support for Windows XP Service Pack 1 on Oct. 10. To continue receiving updates for Windows XP, customers can upgrade their computers to Windows XP Service Pack 2 for free, the company advises.

Technology experts advise customers to heed these security warnings, and some Microsoft-focused bloggers have suggested switching to Linux for even more security.

Welcoming Change

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer focused on the idea of change being necessary for future success during his keynote address Tuesday.

“Our industry is full of change — some may call them disruptions. The change that will go on is inevitable. We have to embrace it — our partners have to be willing to embrace it. The key is to be willing to embrace it together. The level of opportunity for all of us will be strong,” he said.

“We’re in the middle of an amazing wave of innovation focused on the end-user. [Our new] products will attract attention and buzz … and we want partners to be prepared for the opportunities.”

Some of the new Microsoft software and services scheduled for delivery to customers include Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, Microsoft Office Live and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live.

“You can say in Vista’s case, it’s a long time in the making, but absolutely a blockbuster release. We will never have this kind of gap again — just count on it,” Ballmer said. “But we have a phenomenal set of products, and the whole is better than the sum of the parts. Software that works the way people work — that’s familiar and easy to use, the people-ready philosophy of development — will last for many years. The thing that brings you all here is a desire to better your business.”

In the Works

Ballmer and other Microsoft employees devoted much of the address to Windows Live Search, which is scheduled for beta release in July. The tool is built directly into Office 2007 and allows users to search people and areas of expertise. A mobile version will be available as well.

Communication also will improve, according to Paul Duffy, senior product manager for Microsoft’s Real Time Communications Group. He focused on the integration of unified communication technologies, the enhancement of Voice Over IP and the ability for employees to make phone calls directly from Office.

The company also announced a hosted antispam and data encryption service, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live — available in Q2 2007 in North America — and a Live partner advisory council.

“If ever there was an ideal time to be a Microsoft partner, it’s right now,” said Allison Watson, corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft. “We’re committed to empowering every partner of any type to deliver innovative, role-based solutions that help customers enable their employees to work the way they need to work to drive real revenue growth.”

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