Microsoft, days before it was to end support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition (SE), has decided to extend the life of the products until June 30, 2006.The Redmond, Wash., software vendor also extended support for Windows Millennium Edition, which was set to end Dec. 31, 2004, until June 30, 2006, it said in a statement Monday.Microsoft was planning to end support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition on Jan. 16. This means that telephone support would no longer be available and Microsoft would stop releasing security updates for the operating system products. Microsoft told users to upgrade to a newer operating system if they still wanted support.Microsoft has now reversed its decision in response to customers' needs and to bring Windows 98 SE in line with its updated product lifecycle policy, the company said. Microsoft has changed its product lifecycle policy to provide support for seven years instead of the original four, it said.Despite the availability of Windows XP since late 2001, Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE, which came to market in June 1998 and June 1999, respectively, are still widely used. Research firm IDC estimates that over 58 million copies of Windows 98 were installed worldwide at the end of 2003, said Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of systems software research at IDC.AssetMetrix, an Ottawa-based IT asset analysis tool vendor, late last year collected data on over 370,000 PCs from 670 businesses in the U.S. and Canada. It found that 80% of those companies have at least one PC running either Windows 95 or Windows 98. The older operating systems accounted for about 27% of operating systems found.