Pointer to article: http://www.crn.com/sections/breakingnews/dailyarchives.jhtml?articleId=54800190
Clearly, Microsoft is having more trouble than it expected cutting the support umbilical for its three-generation-ago platform. For a sizeable group of Microsoft customers, NT 4.0 is stable and good enough for its core file/print server deployments. NT 4.0 users are loath to upgrade for additional features (in Windows 2000 & 2003 servers) that they just don't need.
Microsoft customers are pushing back in a major way on forced migrations, and Microsoft is starting to realize that their loyalty cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, the commoditization of platforms--thanks in large part to the Linux/open source challenge--is seriously diminishing Microsoft's ability to lock customers into migrations to future Windows platforms. Also, the universal spread of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services are reducing the importance of the underlying application platforms (such as Windows/.NET, J2EE, and Linux/Apache/MySQL/PPP).
Microsoft shouldn't be nickel-and-diming its longtime customers on such issues as NT 4.0 support. It has seriously strained customers' loyalty with its ill-considered Software Assurance program, its increasingly cloudy "Longhorn" roadmap, and its legendary security vulnerabilities. IMHO, the vendor should extend its flat-fee-based custom-support program for NT 4.0 indefinitely, not just through December 2006. It would notch customer-goodwill brownie points from such a move without exposing itself to exorbitant long-term financial burdens. After all, the NT 4.0 customer base is diminishing gradually due to normal attrition and Microsoft's copious incentives.
Besides, Microsoft needs its current customers' NT 4.0 deployments to prove out the value proposition (legacy consolidation/coexistence/codeployment) of its new Virtual Server 2005 product. Virtualization technologies such as this--and SOA, come to think of it--are giving older platforms a new lease on life. Any older software that can be encapsulated with Web services interfaces (WSDL, SOAP, etc.) or run in a virtualization platform can coexist and interoperate with the brave new world of Linux, "Longhorn," and any other new app platforms that the industry develops over the foreseeable future.