Windows 98, 98 SE, and ME have finally been taken off life support by Microsoft. The company's initial plan was to discontinue support for Windows 98 and 98 SE in January 2004 with Windows ME to follow in December of the same year. However, support was prolonged as Microsoft claimed it felt a need to "assist" users of those operating systems—particularly those in emerging markets—with the transition. Indeed, by the end of 2003, Google's Zeitgeist stats revealed a whopping 27% of Google users still used Windows 98. Microsoft ended up discontinuing free support for Windows 98, 98 SE, and ME, but it has continued offering paid support and security patches until today.
According to a Gartner analyst quoted by ZDNet, the end of Windows 98 and ME support may put consumer and school PCs at risk, which could trigger a move to Linux or Macs. The analyst believes Microsoft initially prolonged support for Windows 98/ME in order to thwart possible gains by Linux on the desktop. However, the analyst adds that Microsoft's support policy is better than that of most Linux vendors, whom he claims generally stop supporting their distributions after one or two years.
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