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Incentives aim to nudge users off Windows NT

With extended support for Windows NT 4.0 ending this year, Microsoft is creating a number of incentive programs to move NT users to newer versions of its server operating system.

Microsoft says it's making progress in its attempt to move customers off of NT Server and onto a newer version of Windows, though many customers continue to have their reasons for sticking with what is tried and true.

Product managers from Microsoft's Windows server team say they expect that, by the end of this year, only about 10% of Windows servers in use will be based on NT. That estimate is based on projections published last year by International Data Corp. Extended support for Windows NT 4.0 ends Dec. 31.

To encourage more customers to make the switch, Microsoft has launched several programs designed to make migration from NT easier and to address customer pain points, said Jim Hebert, general manager of Microsoft's Windows server division.

Chances are, when a customer migrates from one operating system to another, he will look to migrate other pieces too.
Steve Kleynhans
analystMeta Group

For example, during the last year, Microsoft has added free training, more engaging partner programs, upgrade tools, try-before-you-buy loaner servers and an application compatibility toolkit. The company will continue to add tools, education and other forms of assistance to get customers to upgrade, he said.

"Our goal is to help every one of our existing NT 4.0 customers understand the benefits of our more modern operating system," Hebert said.

Steve Kleynhans, an analyst at Meta Group, Stamford, Conn., said that most of his clients came to the realization last year that they would have to get off of NT 4.0 soon. The vast majority of organizations with NT 4.0 have Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 in place. "But they haven't seen a good reason to take the time or effort to dispose of that old NT 4.0 machine," Kleynhans said.

One typical case is that of Curtis Muldrew, director of technology infrastructure at Smith & Nephew, a medical equipment supplies company with headquarters in Andover, Mass. Muldrew said that he still has a handful of NT servers that are running a legacy application that cannot use Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003.

"Until we move to something new, we have to keep the application and keep NT," Muldrew said.

Kleynhans said that, with budgets starting to loosen and with support for NT coming to an end, IT professionals say this is the year to get rid of NT.

That's good news for Microsoft, which doesn't make much money on customers with NT 4.0 or even Windows 2000 Server because the life cycles for those products are winding down. "Chances are, when a customer migrates from one operating system to another, he will look to migrate other pieces too," Kleynhans said.


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