Microsoft Corp. will extend support for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, and Windows Millennium Edition (Me) through June 30, 2006, the company said Jan. 12, reversing a decision from last month.

Support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition had been scheduled to expire on Jan. 16 and for Windows Me on Dec. 31 (see http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=4792), but the software giant decided to keep supporting those systems, in large part because some customers in developing countries were not aware it was ending.

“While we’ve done an excellent job communicating our life-cycle policy for most of our products, we have found that we could use more time to communicate those guidelines in a handful of smaller markets,” including Kazakhstan, the Ivory Coast, and Slovenia, Microsoft spokesman Matt Pilla said.

During the extended support period, the company will offer paid phone support and review security threats to determine whether it will provide customers with security patches.

Microsoft’s change of heart is good news for schools. According to market research firm Quality Education Data, more than a third (34 percent) of the nation’s K-12 schools still use Windows 98 computers. Although most school district technology plans call for computer upgrades at least once every five years, tight budgets in the last few years have led many schools to put their computer refresh plans on hold.

“This is really good news, as it will allow us to make an orderly transition to 2000 or XP,” said Marc Liebman, superintendent of the Marysville Joint Unified School District in California, where half the district’s computers run on Windows 98. “The extension also gives us time to fund the replacement of computers that won’t be able to handle 2000.”

Since Oct. 15, 2002, Microsoft has offered seven years of support for its new products. Before that, it offered four. Support for Windows 95 ended Dec. 31, 2001.

Links:

Microsoft technical support
http://support.microsoft.com

Windows 98 Support Center
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=fh;EN-US;w98

Quality Education Data
http://www.qeddata.com