Microsoft's Upgrade Mandate for SP2 Perks Ruffles Few Feathers

By Karen Schwartz  |  Print this article Print


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Resellers see business as usual in Microsoft's refusal to fully support non-Windows XP desktop customers with updated patches.

Microsoft's announcement that it will no longer support Internet Explorer patching for older versions of Windows will have little or no impact on resellers and their customers, although it may cause temporary pain for some.

Microsoft announced last month that if users want to use any of the features available in Windows XP SP2, including the SP2 pop-up blocker and ActiveX control blocker, they would have to upgrade to Windows XP or Windows XP Tablet Edition running SP2.

Some resellers and their customers see Microsoft's decision as a defense against other, more open technologies such as the Mozilla Web browser.

"It's interesting that Microsoft is doing this 'forced migration' given all the recent bad press about vulnerabilities in IE, pop-ups, etc.," said Davin Peterson, a storage architect at NCS Tek Inc., a solution provider in Portland, Ore.

"One might be persuaded to think that Microsoft is catching up with the rest of the browsers and wants to force a portion of its client base to pick the improved IE before the customer chooses another solution."

Microsoft clearly made this decision with economics in mind, said David Stone, vice president of business development at Solutions-II Inc., a Littleton, Colo., IT consultant and integrator.

"It's an attempt to force users to move forward," he said. "It's incredibly costly to support many different versions of products. Every software vendor struggles with it because supporting the older stuff is so expensive. If Microsoft can enable people to stay current and do it within their budgets, it benefits everyone. This is Microsoft's latest attempt at doing that."

But for the vast majority of resellers and their customers, Microsoft's announcement makes little difference. If anything, they said, it might prompt users to make the switch a little sooner than they might have.

"Users accept that upgrades and migrations are a fact of life," said Harry Edwards, vice president of corporate development at Helio Solutions Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based solutions integrator. "The way you instigate that process is to announce that support is ending for one environment and you are migrating people to another."

That's especially true for the many organizations that already have made the move to Windows XP. But for those companies that have not yet upgraded, either because of cost or because they are running specific software that isn't yet compatible with XP, many resellers and distributors offer help. CDW Corp., for example, provides a software licensing specialist team that helps customers make licensing choices about their operating systems.

Companies that don't want to deal with Microsoft's latest edict might even consider moving to another operating system or an open Internet browser such as Opera or Mozilla.

Click here to read about how to switch from Internet Explorer to the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox.

"We're starting to see an increase in the questions we receive about alternate operating systems like Linux," said Mark Thabit, director of product management at Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW. To determine whether to make such a drastic change, organizations should examine their complete Microsoft license inventory to determine whether there are opportunities to combine licenses to enhance volume discounts. If so, upgrade costs could be minimal, and such a move may be worthwhile in some cases, Thabit said.

Although the move may create pain for some customers in the short term, some say it is necessary.

"If Microsoft can leverage internal resources by focusing on current projects instead of supporting outdated technology, that can only be beneficial for all Microsoft users in the long run," said Lief Morin, president of Key Information Systems Inc., a Woodland Hills, Calif., systems integrator.

But even though it's a move that must take place—at least at some point—many people may complain that it's simply too soon, creating a situation in which Microsoft may have to retreat, Stone said.

"I think they will back off," Stone said. "History has shown that Microsoft has done that when there is a large enough outcry."

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