Study: Windows 98 prevalent as end of support looms

Many North American businesses still have computers running on Windows 98, even though support for the operating system (OS) is set to end on Jan. 16, according to a study released Thursday.

AssetMetrix Inc., an Ottawa-based IT asset analysis tool vendor, collected data on over 370,000 PCs from 670 businesses in the U.S. and Canada. It found that 80 per cent of those companies have at least one PC running either Windows 95 or Windows 98. The older operating systems accounted for about 27 per cent of operating systems found.

“We were starting to help our companies move toward Windows 2000 or XP and we kept finding Windows 98 and 95 popping up,” explained Steve O’Halloran, managing director of AssetMetrix Research Labs. “We did another dimensional analysis and found that most of the PCs running Windows 95 and 98 are basically the machines that were purchased during 1995 and 1998. We started taking a look at the numbers and figured what had happened was that everybody started buying these Y2K-certified computers in 1998 and 1999 and we got over the Y2K hump.”

O’Halloran noted that following Y2K came the economic slowdown in 2001 where businesses “put a big hold on everything in terms of puchasing.”

“Microsoft means it this time. Windows 98 is obsolete come January,” he said. “The problem itself is not Windows 98 or how the machine is running. There is nothing wrong with Windows 98. The rules have changed and you have to now understand whether your machines are Internet facing. If they are, all of sudden there will no longer be hotfixes for flaws that may be discovered in March or April or later in the year”.

Microsoft will end support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition on Jan. 16. The products will become “obsolete,” according to the Microsoft Web site. Online self-help support will continue to be available until at least June 30, 2006, but Microsoft will not provide security fixes or other product updates.

Support for Windows 95 ended on Dec. 31, 2001, according to the Microsoft product lifecycle Web site.

As a result of the Windows 98 retirement, businesses who still have operating system in use face “an ever-increasing risk of security breach for their entire network,” according to the AssetMetrix study. The company advises businesses to retire all Windows 98 systems that are connected directly to the Internet.

-With files from Carly Suppa, IT World Canada

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