While the Microsoft Sydney .Net Users Group blames a "few big, noisy corporates" for Microsoft's decision to maintain support for the Windows 98 operating system, the OS has to go, it says.
With 58 million copies of Windows 98 currently installed worldwide Microsoft was forced to do an about-face on plans to withdraw support on January 16, 2004 and has extended support for Win 98 and Win 98 (Second Edition) to June 30, 2006.
Local user group president and chief architect of local .Net solutions developer Superior Software for Windows (SSW), Adam Cogan, said the operating system has "got to go" as it poses a security threat.
Cogan said the decision will make software support more expensive for customers by "dragging out the life of three ageing products".
Cogan claims fewer than 10 percent of the 11,000-member user group run Win 98, 98 SE and ME, adding that Microsoft's about-face is the result of "pressure" from a few large enterprises.
"Microsoft has no choice but to listen to big business - they're the ones who go through upgrade problems like ongoing costs, the software testing, or not having a migration path or the source code in place for a Windows upgrade," he said.
"Windows 98 has to go. Big organisations should be pushed onto Windows 2000 and Windows XP as [those systems] are a lot more robust and stable. The other three OSes don't have Unicode, a personal firewall, or security enhancements like Microsoft Data Access Components for servers and workstations."
Microsoft Australia senior product marketing manager for Windows Desktop Danny Beck acknowledged there was a large customer base still dependent on these operating systems and pointed out the company's change of heart is in response to "customer needs".
Beck said Win 98 (SE) is now in line with Microsoft's updated product lifecyle policy which now provides support for seven years instead of the original four.
Despite the availability of Windows XP since late 2001, IDC's vice president of operating systems software research Dan Kusnetzky said that, at the end of 2003, Windows 98 and 95 still make up 20 percent of Windows-based PCs.
The installed base of Microsoft desktop operating systems users now totals 380 million globally, according to IDC.