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Expiring OSes? Check the Windows ‘best before’ dates

NT 4 gets it this week, massacre due in December...

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Microsoft claiming Novell products have an expiration date will have prompted gales of laughter in IT departments throughout the world. Redmond itself is home of the expiration date, habitually unleashes a 'new' operating system on us every year, and deploys a battery of weapons - retirement of MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) qualifications, price juggling, withholding of handy widgets, menacing new licensing regimes - in order to achieve de facto expiration of the old ones.

In claiming Novell might do something like this at some point over the next few years, the Redmond marketing droids have achieved Olympic standards in chutzpah. Particularly if one does a quick reality check as to the status of NetWare's one time competitor, Windows NT.

By a miraculous coincidence, just last week Microsoft posted a notice that Windows NT 4.0 Server would be retired (or, as we say in mailshots to NetWare users, expired) as of 1st October. Which by another miraculous coincidence is when Novell filed against Microsoft in Salt Lake City.

Microsoft is pulling Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows NT 4.0, Enterprise Edition, and Windows NT 4.0 Client Access Licenses (CALs) from its volume licensing programmes, and upgrade versions are being pulled from retail channels. The company says full versions will still be available at retail for "the foreseeable future" and also offers a special 'deal' whereby you can deploy new NT 4.0 installations by buying a Win2k licence for each copy of NT installed. "These 'downgrade' installations can then be upgraded to Windows 2000 later at no additional cost," says Microsoft.

The announcement also seems to suggest that Microsoft Downgrade Options is some kind of programme in itself "(Please see Microsoft Downgrade Options in Volume Licensing for further information)". Regrettably, we can't seem to find this under volume licensing, but it is referred to in the Windows Desktop Product Lifecycle Guidelines, here. A couple of weeks ago we speculated that it might make financial sense for IT departments to buy into the new Microsoft licensing regime now, but not actually install the software - i.e., you equip with the licenses for the latest now, but don't bother about the expensive rollout until later.

Well good grief, Microsoft has effectively formalised this procedure. Check the FAQs:

Q If I have a significant business need to continue deploying Windows 2000 after March 31, 2003, what should I do?
A Microsoft Volume Licensing allows downgrade rights under Volume Licensing 6.0. Customers who purchase Windows XP Professional have full downgrade rights to, Windows Professional, Windows NT, Windows 95, and Windows 98. Just as prior to March 31, 2003, media will continue to be available via Worldwide Volume Licensing Fulfillment. Media will also continue to be available for sale pre-loaded on machines via authorized OEM distributors.

Note that expiry date; the lifecycle guidelines also give handy expiration dates for the other MS operating systems. There's a 'slow death' phase, "Extended Phase," where life becomes more expensive and difficult, and note NT 4 seems to be entering it six months early:

- Windows 95 (December 31, 2000)
- Windows 98 / 98 SE (June 30, 2002)
- Windows NT 4.xx (June 30, 2002)
- Windows 2000 (March 31, 2003)

Then there's the definitely dead, "Non-supported phase:"

- MS DOS x.xx (December 31, 2001)
- Windows 3.xx (December 31, 2001)
- Windows 95 (December 31, 2001)
- Windows NT 3.5x (December 31, 2001)
- Windows 98/98 SE (June 30, 2003)
- Windows NT 4.xx (June 30, 2003)

Quite an expiration massacre due on New Year's Eve, no? ®

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