Microsoft tends to enterprise Windows users -- but kicks consumers to the curb

Microsoft patches the wounds inflicted on corporate customers by XP and Windows 8.1 Update, but consumers are still mired in update woes

In the past two days we've seen reports about Microsoft reducing the price of XP support for its largest customers and been told that after eight days of no-shows Windows 8.1 Update is going back out to WSUS corporate update servers. It also turns out the folks in Redmond have extended the Windows 8.1 patch support cutoff date to August, but only for large corporate customers.

This is all great news -- on the corporate side. Consumers and small organizations, on the other hand, are still faced with the end of XP support -- no matter what the cost -- as well as persistent, unexplained errors installing Windows 8.1 Update and a hard Windows 8.1 patch cutoff date that's a little over three weeks away.

In the XP game, it pays to be big. Computerworld's Gregg Keizer collected candid statements from several large Microsoft customers, saying that Microsoft had pulled back on its reported $200-per-PC-per-year charge for Windows XP support. Keizer says that Microsoft has reduced the price of XP Custom Support Agreements -- the price that large customers pay for XP support, over and above their usual Volume License and Software Assurance fees -- to put a cap on prices for organizations with more than a thousand XP PCs:

The new ceiling is $250,000, according to several sources, although the $200-per-device price remained in place.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley repeated the claim, confirming through independent sources that the prices have come down, although she has different anecdotal evidence, citing one XP installation that lowered an $85 million agreement to just $3 million "to cover all of the devices in his organization still running Windows XP." More than that, Foley received a sorta confirmation from a Microsoft spokesperson:

We've been working with customers and partners on the migration from Windows XP since we announced in September 2007 that support for Windows XP would end on April 8, 2014. As part of this effort, we've made custom support more affordable so large enterprise organizations could have temporary support in place while they migrate to a more modern and secure operating system.

Of course, for those of you running XP or working for an organization with fewer than 1,000 (or so) active XP PCs, the news doesn't mean much. Microsoft still hasn't made any rumblings about offering the same XP patches to the unwashed masses -- at any price. I haven't heard about any plans to set up Robin XP Hood patch centers, redistributing the patches Microsoft sells to those with very deep pockets, but it could happen.

On the Windows 8.1 Update side, the situation's even more bifurcated. As I reported yesterday, Microsoft's now sending Windows 8.1 Update (the patch most of us identify as KB 2919355) through the normal WSUS update server channels. Enterprises using WSUS to control Windows updates are encouraged to deploy Windows 8.1 Update. Prior to the re-release of the patch over WSUS, companies were told that they would no longer receive patches for Windows 8.1 after May 13: Installing Windows 8.1 Update was a prerequisite to receiving any patches for Windows 8.1.

Perhaps as penance for yanking the patch for eight days to fix distribution bugs, Microsoft yesterday offered an extension on the Windows 8.1 end-of-patching-support date. According to Brandon LeBlanc's post yesterday:

All customers managing updates using WSUS, Windows Intune, or System Center Configuration Manager have until August 12th to apply the new updates. For those that decide to defer installation, separate security updates will be published during the 120-day window.

In other words, if you get your Windows patches through a corporate WSUS server (or Windows Intune or System Center Configuration Manager), Microsoft will continue to give you patches for Windows 8.1 until Aug. 12. That's very good news.

If you don't get your patches through WSUS, though, you're basically outta luck. If you want Windows 8.1 patches to keep coming after May 13, you have to install Windows 8.1 Update/KB 2919355 -- if you can. Yes, those Win 8.1 patches are the same ones rolling out of WSUS, but you don't get them ... unless somebody at Microsoft changes their mind and cuts us non-WSUS Windows customers a break.

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