Microsoft is explicitly not fixing a vulnerability in
Windows 98 and Me. So?
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Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some
of the many questions I get at askleo.info.
Recent news reports are that Microsoft is explicitly not going to fix a
recently discovered vulnerability in Windows 98 and Windows Me. Their reasons
are twofold: One, it would be too much
work, and two, support for these versions of Windows ends on July 11 anyway.
As you can imagine, this has caused a bit of controversy. I’ve even heard
the phrase “class action lawsuit” thrown around.
The problem is that there are two very practical realities that are totally
at odds with each other.
On one hand, it’s unreasonable to expect Microsoft to fix bugs in every
version of Windows for all time. Not only does it not make financial sense for
Microsoft to continue to support a steadily diminishing client base, but it
also doesn’t make practical sense. As Microsoft has stated about this
particular fix, the fundamental components were radically redesigned for later
versions of the operating system. In a sense the “fix” is, in fact, the newer
versions of the operating system.
And let’s face it, you wouldn’t expect Ford to issue a recall if a design
flaw was found today in, say, the Pinto of the 1970’s.
On the other hand, it’s equally unreasonable to expect all users to upgrade.
It’s often an expensive proposition requiring new hardware to support the new
systems, and simply beyond the reach of many people. While the numbers continue
to decrease, there are still a fair number of people running Windows ME,
Windows 98 and even earlier versions.
Or to put it another way, there are still some Pintos on the road.
So what to do?
While I don’t believe that they have an obligation to do it, it’d certainly
be nice, and really really great PR, if Microsoft were to invest the resources
to deal with Windows 98 and Me. But let’s face it, that’s not bloodily
The practical reality is, like the owner of an aging Pinto, Windows 9x and
Me users should be aware of what it is they’re driving. End of support for
Windows 98 and Me is not new – there’s been lots of warning. The world is
passing them by, and they simply aren’t as safe on the road as more modern
operating systems. They need to take a few extra precautions, as Microsoft even outlines, to avoid the threat
posed by these vulnerabilities.
And yes, if at all feasible, they should really consider upgrading. Or even
consider switching, if so inclined.
But a class action lawsuit? That’s just silly, and only benefits the
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