The software giant is phasing out Windows NT 4.0, its 5-year-old operating system for businesses.
Microsoft on Monday discontinued the server version of NT because of increased demand for its newer replacement, Windows 2000, and because of the forthcoming release of Windows XP.
The software giant is no longer selling NT Server 4.0 via its volume licensing programs, through which businesses can buy the operating system in bulk and with a discount, according to Microsoft's Web site. The software giant, however, will continue to sell individual copies of NT 4.0 through retail stores.
Businesses can also still buy NT Server 4.0 in bulk by purchasing Windows 2000 licenses. But analysts don't expect many companies will want to buy the older operating system. Windows NT Server 4.0 was designed to run on corporate servers and on computers that power Web sites.
"This is all part of the process Microsoft uses to eliminate a product in their portfolio," said IDC analyst Al Gillen. "It's not a big a surprise because the reality is that 4.0 is just winding down and the demand is diminishing,"
Gillen added that Microsoft's decision to discontinue NT 4.0 should not be viewed as the company's attempt to increase revenue by forcing customers to buy the company's newer business operating systems. Microsoft has historically discontinued older operating systems such as Windows 95 for consumers, which was halted at the end of last year. While companies will continue to use NT 4.0, the operating system has outdated technology, he said.
"Deactivating an aging product is not a way for Microsoft to move customers ahead to new technology," Gillen said. "The new licensing terms are a better example."
Microsoft recently announced a new software licensing program that forces Microsoft customers to upgrade to new versions of Microsoft software, such as Office, to qualify.
A Microsoft spokesman said the company will continue to support Windows NT 4.0 products and will announce later this year the company's timeline for ending its support.
The software giant's decision to retire Windows NT Server 4.0 came on the same day Microsoft was sued by Novell for running an advertising campaign that said Novell's Netware server operating system had an expiration date and could become obsolete.