Redmond retirement ratchet spells doom for Win2k

Upgrade or die, punks...

Windows 2000 has been given nine months to live, as far as OEMs are concerned, and Microsoft is pressuring the PC companies to stop offering dual install Win2k/WinXP systems immediately. Microsoft operating systems magically become more expensive and difficult to obtain as soon as there's a new rev out, but so long as the previous version is still available on new PCs via OEMs, business customers have a relatively simple way to stick with their current OS, rather than having to do an expensive rollout of the replacement.

The demise of dual install, which makes it easier and cheaper for OEMs to cater for customers in this position, will make life harder for everybody but Microsoft, and of itself will make the PC companies more inclined to drop Win2k. And as their contracts won't allow them to sell Win2k as of April 2003, well, there's less and less point in wriggling, isn't there, folks?

The moves will have an immediate impact on upgrade strategies and costs, and by a miraculous coincidence Microsoft's widely-hated Licensing 6.0 becomes The Law at the end of this month. So, you're an IT manager with a major installation standardised on Win2k, you haven't decided whether to go for Licensing 6.0 yet, what are your options?

The supply of OEM Win2k machines is going to dry up soon, and you can probably reckon on those still available up until next April becoming more expensive and difficult to obtain. After April you will have to install Win2k on new machines yourself, and you'll have to source the Win2k licences from somewhere other than your OEM. You can still do this via the "downgrade" options in Microsoft licensing deals (whereby you pay for the current product and have rights to install the old one of your choice) but, um, don't you think it would probably be cheaper if you did this via Licensing 6.0? Gotcha...

The alternative that doesn't involve signing up for the revolution (you didn't really think your board would let you do that anyway, did you?) is to buy the OS separately at inflated prices, prepare your own standard disk images (watch out for the licensing police though, if they all wind up with the same registration ID) and throw away the XP licences you've had to buy from the OEM. Which is what you did with NT 4.0 for a long time anyway, so you know the ropes, you end up paying Microsoft double-plus for the privilege of not upgrading when Microsoft says jump.

Of course, if you sign up for Licensing 6.0 now then you'll get all the upgrades you don't want to go with so early free for the period of the licence, so you won't have to pay double-plus. But... as several readers have already pointed out to us, if the next rev of Windows, Longhorn is somewhere between the middle distance/never (which is really what 2004-5 amounts to), then there aren't going to be major OS upgrades in the foreseeable future. We're unsure which way round that gotcha goes, but for the corporate buyers being a Microsoft customer usually goes pretty like the old cowboy movies. Whether it's the lieutenant or the sargeant who shouts "Indians!", it's always the sargeant who gets the arrow in the chest. So go figure, you'll pay (and you will, you will) for free arrows in the chest. ®

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