Microsoft Backs Up Its Support Plan

Delays in the release of Windows .NET Server aren’t the only changes that Microsoft is making to its calendar. Due to popular demand, the retirement dates of two older versions of Windows also are being pushed back.

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In response to what a spokesman calls “customer concerns,” Microsoft announced in October that it will continue to support Windows NT Server 4.0 until the end of next year, without charging its “extended” support fee. Additionally, the company has stretched support for Windows 2000 Professional until the end of 2004.

Microsoft’s mainstream support for NT Server was slated to end at the end of this year. Such support for Windows 2000 Professional was to end March 2003.

But in a series of meetings over the summer, according to sources at Microsoft and several of the company’s largest clients, customers pushed for and won changes in that plan.

One of the customers doing the pushing was Citigroup, a large financial industry customer of Microsoft, according to a Nov. 4 message sent to Citigroup’s Windows support and application-development departments by Christian Parker-Lentz of Citigroup’s distributed engineering group. The changes were a result, the memo said, of the company’s “working with Microsoft to redefine the lifecycle for NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 Client and Server.”

The changes will take some pressure off companies such as Citigroup and FleetBoston Financial that haven’t finished moving to the current Microsoft desktop. This will save hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in support fees over the next year for older systems, according to Microsoft customers.

Citigroup has not yet certified Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system, Windows XP, for corporate use, and almost half of the company’s desktop computers at some locations still run Windows NT 4.0, according to sources within Citigroup. At deadline, Citigroup had not officially commented on the changes noted in the memo.

Citigroup isn’t alone. “[We have] no numbers, but we have a significant base of [companies] who have not yet migrated to Windows 2000 from NT 4,” says Chris Burry, technical infrastructure director at Avanade, a joint venture between Microsoft and technology consultant Accenture that provides Microsoft technology implementation services. “Some are even running Windows 95 or Windows 98 on their desktops.”