Companies still running Windows 98 risk facing unpatched Internet threats as Microsoft puts the operating system out to pasture early next year, said a research firm Thursday.
The research paper and an accompanying survey, both released by AssetMetrix Research Labs, an arm of IT asset management vendor AssetMetrix, points out that although there are large numbers of machines in enterprises still running Windows 98, the Redmond, Wash.-based developer is set to retire the operating system and will stop posting security fixes for the OS in mid-January 2004.
AssetMetrix's survey of 670 companies found that 80 percent of the firms were still running at least one machine with Windows 98 and the older OS, Windows 95. Together, the two operating systems account for over 27 percent of all installed Windows machines, a number substantially higher than the meager seven percent share of Windows XP. Windows 2000 placed in the number one spot, with 53 percent, while the aged Windows NT, still popular in many enterprises, accounted for 13 percent.
The problem with Windows 98 stems from Microsoft's product lifecycle. As of January 16, 2004, Microsoft will shift Windows 98 into what it dubs the 'non-supported phase,' which means that although online help for the operating system will continue, the company is not obligated to release security 'hotfixes' for uncovered vulnerabilities.
To compound the issue, Microsoft earlier this week announced that it was discontinuing distribution for all editions of Windows 98 except for Windows 98 Second Edition, a move required by a settlement reached with Sun Microsystems in a dispute over Java.