Microsoft said on Tuesday it would continue to offer support to customers who still own versions of its Windows 98 operating system, in a move aimed to sooth developing countries.
Extended Support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE had been scheduled to come to an end on Friday, January 16, while Windows Me support had been scheduled to end December 31, 2004.
The company has now decided to lengthen the Extended Support phase for Windows 98, Windows 98 SE and Windows Millennium Edition (Me) through June 30, 2006.
It bit the bullet after it emerged that many users in developing countries who still rely on Windows 98 were confused about Microsoft’s support guidelines. These were shorter for some Windows 98 products than for its more recent batch of Windows operating systems like Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
Microsoft has come under pressure in recent years, particularly by authorities in developing countries, for its attempts to push customers into buying or subscribing to newer, expensive Windows and Office software versions.
Many countries have started to buy computers that run on the freely available Linux system, while others hang onto older Windows versions that have been paid for and still do the job.
Microsoft has responded in a variety of ways, such as cutting prices for groups of big customers and opening up some of the source code to address security concerns.
Windows 98, and its predecessor Windows 95, run on roughly 20 percent of all Windows-based PCs. Windows is the dominant PC operating system with over 90 percent global market share.
“(This decision) provides Microsoft more time to communicate its product lifecycle support guidelines in a handful of markets — particularly smaller and emerging markets,” Microsoft said in a statement.
By this decision Microsoft will bring support for Windows 98 SE into compliance with the firm’s support lifecycle policy for its current Windows products that are on sale. The company’s current lifecycle policy for new products provides for support for seven years instead of the original four for Windows 98 SE.
Microsoft then decided to also lengthen support for Windows 98 and Windows Me customers through the same date in order to provide a consistent date.
“During this time, Microsoft will continue to offer paid phone support and will continue to review any critical security issues and take appropriate steps,” it said.