Windows 95 Will Never Be Fully Y2K-Compliant - Official
Microsoft has announced - but not actually shipped - Year 2000 compliance testing tools, but at the same time it's emerging that there's no guarantee that more than a narrow subset of company products will actually get completely fixed. Windows 95, for example, will remain as "compliant with minor issues" forever - some minor issues have already been addressed, but according to Microsoft, that's your lot, son.
The 'don't hold your breath' aspect of Microsoft's Y2K programme is also more than a little reinforced by the generous guarantee the company inserted in a statement yesterday: "Also, to support those who use recent (but not the most current) versions of Microsoft products, the company said it will maintain Year 2000 compliance for many popular products such as Windows 95, Office 97 and SQL Server 6.5 through Jan. 1, 2001. This policy will apply even if newer versions become available. Meanwhile, all future Microsoft products will be Year 2000 compliant, the company said."
You may well, reasonably, have trouble with that one. Here we have Microsoft guaranteeing Year 2000 compliance through 1 January 2001 on a fairly narrow range of non-current products (i.e., three, and we're not sure Office 97 is entirely non-current yet), and later on in the same statement Microsoft says one of those products, Windows 95, won't be brought up to full compliance. The super-generous one year guarantee is also more than a little disturbing. One could wonder what the hell it is that Microsoft thinks might prang Windows 95 the year after the rollover, but more probably one could muse that in Redmond think, if you haven't upgraded by then, you bastard, then you might as well be tossed to the sharks.
The "compliance with minor issues" tag in one sense means more or less what it says. It ought to be perfectly possible to run Windows 95 installations through to 2035 if that's what you want to do (2035 is its official Microsoft-defined operational ceiling, apparently), and not much bad will happen. But as one irate developer pointed out to us last time we casually dismissed minor issues, it's going a lot nastier than that.
Microsoft software runs with a bewilderingly large range, and large numbers of versions, of DLLs. Quite a few of these are derived from Microsoft itself, so even if developers themselves can track down everything within their own software that needs a fix, they quite probably won't get the fixes from Microsoft RSN. That's not necessarily a Y2K-specific problem, but Microsoft's stated Y2K policy makes it pretty clear that it exists, and will continue to exist.
Microsoft wants to move people onto new versions of the software every couple of years (actually every year in some cases, but the deadline slips, vis Office 96). It doesn't think, if there's a new version out, it should be having to try too hard to support the old stuff. So although you get, say, DirectX 6.0 support for Windows 95 now, 2001 will probably be a different matter for DirectX X.0, and it might be a different one for Windows 98, given that Windows 2000 will be shipping by then.
The happy side-effect is of course that you have to pay for a new version of the product, whereas you don't (not usually or directly, any way) for a bug-fix upgrade. So when Microsoft does go live with its Y2K tools next month, don't get too excited. The company is offering, by download or on free CD, a resource kit that audits individual PCs for Microsoft software, compares the installed software with the Microsoft compliance database, and recommends actions.
System Management Server 2.0 is the corporate version (so you've got to buy it, folks). It's due out at the end of this month, and is intended, among other things, to allow managers to do the same thing on the PCs on the network, download the fixes and then distribute them. You may note that neither of these is rocket science, but although Microsoft originally suggested the Resource Kit would be out in January, it seems to have slipped a month.
Microsoft's compliance list also remains somewhat fluid. Last April the company announced its Year 2000 Resource Center and headlined the accompanying release "Tests Show Most Microsoft Products are Year 2000-Compliant." It added "with minor issues" in the text, and yesterday we had COO Bob Herbold at it again, saying that 93 per cent of products (that have been tested) are compliant or have "minor Year 2000 issues."
But according to the Microsoft lists, quite a lot of products haven't come out of testing yet. All versions of Windows 95 bar the English language ones haven't, for example. And Microsoft is having problems keeping up. All versions of Windows 98 are still listed in the testing not complete area, although we issued a fix for that one last year, didn't we folks?
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