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Microsoft to ditch older products

The software maker says it is retiring several of its older products, including Windows 98, to comply with a court order related to Sun Microsystems and Java.

Microsoft will retire several of its products in two weeks' time, including Windows 98 and SQL Server 7, to comply with a court order related to its dispute with Sun Microsystems over Java.

In a posting to Microsoft's developer Web site, the company lists several older products that are being phased out and that will no longer be available to customers as of Dec. 15.

The company on Monday updated the posting to say that it is extending the deadline to download older products to Dec. 23 "in order to allow subscribers to download copies of content scheduled to be removed."

The roster of products to be dropped includes SQL Server 7, Office XP Developer, Windows 98, and a number of Office 2000-related tools and patches.

Microsoft said it would remove the Java Virtual Machine from some products, including Office XP Professional with FrontPage, Publisher 2002, Windows NT 4.0 and Small Business Server 2000. The change will allow customers to download those products as before.

The software titan also on Monday said that ISA 2000 security software will also be modified so that it can continue to be downloaded after the Dec. 23 deadline.

Microsoft said that after the deadline the products would no longer be available through its MSDN developer Web site or "other channels at Microsoft." In the original posting, dated Dec. 4, the company said the shift was "due to a settlement agreement reached in January 2001" related to a Java licensing agreement between Sun and Microsoft.

According to an agreement reached with Sun over the distribution of the Java Virtual Machine, Microsoft's software has to run Java programs. Microsoft has the right to modify Microsoft's Java software to fix critical bugs or security holes through January 2, 2004.

While Microsoft will no longer distribute the products listed, many will continue to be supported. The company plans to offer SQL Server 7 support until the end of 2007, for instance. Windows 98 support is available, for a fee, until next month. Third-party companies also provide Windows 98 support.

Many large businesses have already updated most of the affected products to more current versions, according to analysts.

In October, Microsoft said it would effectively exit the business of distributing Java Virtual Machines for Windows but would extend support for its own Java software for nine months until September 2004. At the time, however, the company did not specify which products it would continue to support.

Sun has sought to distribute its own Java Virtual Machine through court proceedings and in distribution agreements with PC manufacturers.