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Microsoft last week bowed to customer pressure and announced that it will continue extended support for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium Edition until June 30, 2006.

Support for Windows 98 and 98 SE was to be phased out last week, with support for Windows ME due to stop Dec. 31.

But the company reversed that decision, citing a response to customer needs, officials said. Microsoft will continue to offer paid phone support and to review critical security issues and take appropriate steps.

According to officials, Microsoft also wanted to bring Windows 98 SE into compliance with the company’s current life-cycle policy for new products, which provides support for seven years instead of the original four.

The move is expected to bring relief to some IT users and consumers. IDC estimates there are 58 million Windows 98 users and 21 million Windows 95 users. AssetMetrix Research Labs said more than 80 percent of companies are still using Windows 98 and/or Windows 95 in some capacity.