IT administrators who are still migrating off Windows NT Server 4.0 and onto newer versions of Windows will get an additional year of access to paid custom support for technical support and security updates.
Microsoft said on Friday that it will extend its custom support for Windows NT Server for one
Additionally, Microsoft said its Exchange Server 5.5 messaging software will begin its last year of extended support on Jan 1, 2005. A one-year period of custom support for the same product will start on Jan 1, 2006. In 2005, Exchange Server 5.5 managers will continue to receive free security updates, but they must enroll in the Extended Support program to get non-security hotfixes, Microsoft executives said.
Microsoft had been mulling whether to offer custom support in 2006 for the two platforms. And after assessing where many customers stood in the migration process, it decided to go ahead with the additional support, said Peter Houston, senior director of Windows serviceability at Microsoft. "Some customers, the larger government agencies and enterprises, could not be finished in 2005," he said. "So we decided to go out to 2006."
Houston would not disclose the cost of the program, but said it is a flat fee that is the same for everyone regardless
Microsoft also made two other support enhancements. Customers will now receive fixes for security vulnerabilities that are not just "critical" but also those deemed "important" in terms of Microsoft's vulnerability classification system. Microsoft also reduced the length of time of the service subscription -- from six months to three months.
Analysts said Microsoft is doing right by its customers, but the extensions also reflect that fact that the company has had difficulty getting them to move to the latest versions of Windows and Exchange.
"Customers have more choice than ever -- Exchange faces competition from IBM and Oracle, which have both come a long way in supporting Outlook on the front end," said Mark Levitt, a research vice president at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. "And on the OS side, Linux is gaining ground.
"There is a greater chance of risking alienating customers by telling them they must migrate or else," he said.