infoTECH Feature

May 11, 2016

How Long Should Companies Support Old Tech Before Pushing Updates?

One of the most concerning things about buying into new technology — at least when it’s first introduced — is the question of how long it will be supported. Time and time again we have seen situations where a company folded, was acquired by another company, or just plain stopped providing support for a particular product.

Some examples of products that experienced this issue include the Revolv smart home hub, Windows 7 and 8, and much more. But it’s not just new technology that’s affected by this problem. Dated technology is included too, especially when a company is ready to upgrade its platform and doesn’t want to be bogged down by dated hardware or infrastructure.

It turns out, that’s exactly what’s going on with Verizon’s (News - Alert) traditional home phone service. A union that represents thousands of Verizon workers on strike claims the company is using shady tactics to force customers to upgrade to fiber-optic service, with the goal to phase out the traditional home phone technology.

The group filed an informal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, in the hopes that this “institutional deception” will end.

What Is Verizon Doing?

Before workers even reach a problematic area, they are being advised to inform customers that a service upgrade is the only fix. This way, when customers report they are having trouble with their traditional home phone service, company reps are providing them no alternatives, saying that they need to upgrade to Verizon’s latest tech, because “fiber is the only fix.” Honestly, this kind of forced upgrade isn’t foreign to the tech and hardware industries but the case for Verizon customers is especially frustrating.

If a customer refuses to go through with the upgrade, they are then informed that their service will most likely be disconnected within 20 days. Therefore, if a customer wants to continue using their home phone, they have no choice but to make the switch to fiber.

Verizon is forcibly persuading customers to switch to the new technology, whether they want to or not, lest they lose access to a service they most likely need. Company executives claim this is just a bargaining tactic and that they are not deceiving customers in any way, including those who do not wish to make the switch to fiber.

The Microsoft (News - Alert) Difference

To be honest, this isn’t much different than what Microsoft is currently doing to legacy customers for their Windows platform. It wants to push everyone to make the upgrade to the newest OS version — Windows 10 — so it’s phasing out support for as many legacy products as possible.

Recently, the company announced it was ending support for Windows 8 and older versions of Internet Explorer, the Internet browser that comes bundled as a default with all Windows installs. This is a strong-arm tactic to persuade customers to upgrade to the latest version to avoid losing security, update and feature support.

Of course, the biggest difference between Verizon and Microsoft is Microsoft is not deceiving anyone with its tactics.

The Level of Verizon’s Deceit

For starters, Verizon is deceiving customers by informing them an upgrade is the only answer. This is clearly not the case, and it just doesn’t want to continue supporting the traditional copper lines. Tom Maguire, the senior vice president for national operations support at Verizon, openly admitted the company creates a “ghost” service order to switch a customer’s account before a technician is even sent to their home or business.

On these “ghost” work orders, they use a ghost icon, reminiscent of the ghost from Pac-Man, to indicate to service technicians up front it intends to force customers to make the switch.

Naturally, the informal complaint the union put together cites this “ghost” order practice as proof Verizon is intentionally deceiving customers. The complaint claims Verizon is forcing customers to make a fast decision to either adopt fiber service or give up their service.

How Long Should Companies Support Legacy Products?

All of this does dredge up a good question. How long should a company continue supporting legacy products and services before they are discontinued? What is considered a reasonable period of time to offer product support before declaring a product’s end of life?

If everyone had it their way, companies would continue supporting legacy products and services for as long as people were using them — which could be forever in some cases. However, this is just not viable, especially when a company is dedicating valuable resources, time and money to keeping legacy products alive. Still, that doesn’t mean they should end support as soon as possible.

It’s difficult to say how long products should be supported, because it depends on the technology. To this day, people still use Windows XP, despite the fact that Microsoft ended support for the OS long ago.

After 12 years, Microsoft announced an end to extended support for Windows XP would occur back on April 8, 2014. That’s a long time and more than reasonable. In comparison, however, Windows Vista, 7 and 8 will not receive support nearly as long.

Phasing Out Support

Microsoft will phase out extended support for Windows 8 in January 2023, just 11 years after its 2012 release. One could even argue support will actually end sooner than that because mainstream support will disappear in 2018. The latter applies to:

  • Product updates
  • Minor bug fixes
  • Feature additions

Extended support includes major vulnerability patches and fixes to major bugs that crop up. So essentially, from 2018 to 2023, Microsoft will only support the OS if there are glaring issues that need to be taken care of. Otherwise, it will have moved on to greener pastures.

But Microsoft’s support life is more desirable than what a lot of companies offer, especially when it deceives customers into making a switch like Verizon.

The traditional copper phone lines are old, and a fiber upgrade is warranted. In this case it’s not necessarily about the fact that Verizon is ending support, but instead how it is going about it.

Ultimately, the way Verizon is handling the entire situation shows the blatant disregard it has for its customers, and this attitude needs to stop. It’s what has allowed companies like Comcast to thrive even in today’s world. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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