Microsoft will retire a long list of its products in one week to comply with the requirements of the legal settlement it struck in 2001 with Sun over Java.
Among the products to be put to rest are older versions of some the Redmond, Wash.-based developer's flagship packages, including all versions of Office 2000, Visio 2000, all editions of Windows 98 except for Windows 98 Second Edition, Internet Explorer 5.5, and SQL Server 7.
According to a posting by Andy Boyd, the MSDN Subscriber Program download manager, the products "are being phased out and will no longer be available through MSDN Subscriber Downloads or other channels at Microsoft."
The discontinued products will be removed from the MSDN download area as of December 23, two weeks from today.
The roster of Microsoft software, which also includes Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server, MapPoint 2002, Project 2000, Visual Studio 6 SP3 and SP5, and BackOffice Server 2000, is being dropped to comply with the settlement reached with Sun Microsystems over licensing of that Sun's Java engine.
"As part of the settlement, we are no longer able to ship certain versions of Virtual Machine," said Tony Goodhew, the product manager for Microsoft's developer division.
Microsoft and Sun have been long embroiled in a dispute over the licensing and distribution of Sun's Java. Sun accused Microsoft of using a variation of Java -- which Microsoft dubs the Microsoft Virtual Machine -- that wasn't compatible with Sun's. In a settlement struck between Microsoft and Sun in January, 2001, Microsoft agreed to pay Sun $20 million and to retire products which included the incompatible version of Java.
In the agreement, the deadline for dropping products with the disputed Java was set as January 2, 2004, less than a month away. Earlier this year, however, the two companies agreed to an extension of sorts that would allow Microsoft to support its Virtual Engine with such things as security fixes until Sept. 30, 2004.
"Microsoft is simply being proactive here," said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Microsoft Monitor, an arm of Jupiter Research that specializes in tracking Microsoft's moves. "The deadline is Jan. 2, but when you have a company like Sun that's has been litigious toward you, why wait?"
Microsoft is not ditching all its older products that include the allegedly incompatible Virtual Machine, said Goodhew. By the end of the year, five products will be updated to versions that don't include Virtual Machine, and so will continue to be available. These include Office XP Professional with FrontPage; Publisher 2002; Windows NT 4.0 Workstation, Server, and Enterprise Server; Small Business Server 2002, and ISA Server 2000.
Although the products on the discontinued list will no longer be distributed by Microsoft, current users will still be able to use them, Goodhew said, and acquire additional licenses for new 'seats.'
"This announcement doesn't mean in any way, shape, or form that we're requiring anyone to upgrade," said Goodhew. "We just can no longer give you a set of bits, a CD or a downloaded file, after January 2."
But the process of installing those new seats may get trickier for some organizations.
If an enterprise relies on Windows 98, for instance, and wants to add another system to its environment, it would have to purchase a license -- probably for a newer edition of the OS, such as Windows XP, Goodhew pointed out -- then use that license's 'downgrade' rights to instead install Windows 98. However, the company would have to use its existing Windows 98 CDs or installation files on the network; Microsoft won't offer new Windows 98 CDs or make installation files available for downloading as of Dec. 23.
Nor does the fact that distribution will cease on these products mean that Microsoft's support will cease as well. That, Goodhew said, will continue as per Microsoft's lifecycle roadmap, which spells out when products reach the end of their support lifespan. The original version of Windows 98, for instance, will not be supported after January 2004, but Office 2000 -- another title one on the list -- will be supported until June 2006.
This story courtesy of TechWeb.
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