Microsoft Plays the Name Game; More About NT 4.0 Support

During my "Future of Microsoft Security" talk on the Microsoft Security tour last year, I joked about all the name changes Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) 2003 has undergone. First, it was code-named Whistler Server. At a Gartner conference in early 2002, Microsoft named the product Windows 2002 Server but then noted that the "fat lady hasn't sung yet" and renamed the product Windows .NET Server. Late last year, the company tried to foster some sort of naming consistency by renaming the product Windows .NET Server 2003, telling me that, yes, seriously, this was the final name. In my security talk, I joked that Microsoft still had a few months of development time left, so perhaps the company would change the name again.

Well, I might have been joking, but last week, Microsoft did change the name again—to Windows Server 2003. Microsoft dropped the .NET moniker as part of a wider initiative at the company to better brand its Microsoft .NET-enabled products in a way that wouldn't confuse customers, partners, and developers. So virtually every product with ".NET" in its name will feature a new "Connected with .NET" logo. This logo will appear on Microsoft and third-party software that meets certain criteria. Products bearing the logo will fully support XML Web service capabilities and will take advantage of Microsoft .NET Framework programming model benefits such as multilanguage support, added security, and enhanced flexibility.

Microsoft representatives are sensitive to how this name change will affect customers and are quick to point out that this name change doesn't represent a move away from the company's .NET plans. Indeed, Microsoft has wrestled with branding since .NET was still called Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), a name so awful that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer noted it would be changed (as it was, eventually, to .NET) even though the company hadn't yet figured out what the product should be called. Throughout the development of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, various Microsoft representatives I talked to bemoaned the branding problem and the confusion it was causing in the marketplace. Not helping matters was the fact that Microsoft released several products, such as the so-called .NET Enterprise Server family, that had little or nothing to do with .NET. Sometimes enthusiasm gets in the way of common sense.

Microsoft also wrote to me about the final release and availability of Windows Server 2003. The company will launch its next Windows server product alongside Visual Studio .NET 2003 in San Francisco on April 24, 2003, although the company expects to begin shipping both products to customers before that date. The name change won't affect the development time or final shipping date of Windows Server 2003, the company said.

More About NT 4.0 Support
Many readers—including several from Microsoft—wrote last week to inform me that contrary to what I wrote in last week's Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE, Microsoft has decided to extend support for Windows NT 4.0 for 1 more year—to December 31, 2003. Thanks to this extension, NT 4.0 is now in what Microsoft calls the Extended Support Phase, but the company will waive fees for nonsecurity hotfixes through the end of this year. Beginning January 1, 2004, NT 4.0 pay-per-incident and Premier Support will no longer be available, although Microsoft is still evaluating whether it will issue more security updates for the OS after that date. On January 1, 2005, Microsoft will discontinue online support for NT 4.0. You can find out more about your NT 4.0 support options at the following URL:
http://www.microsoft.com/ntserver/productinfo/availability/retiring.asp

I probably should have anticipated this response, but several readers took exception to my comments about the viability of NT 4.0, noting that many corporations either can't or won't upgrade for various reasons. From a pure cost standpoint, I've often argued that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and certainly this is the case with many NT 4.0 installations. However, the decision comes down to whether your particular business can save money by upgrading to the newer OS versions that offer needed features or make your workers more productive. As with my general advice regarding Windows Server 2003, if you don't need any of the new features that the upgrade offers, you probably don't need to undergo the time and expense of upgrading.

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