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Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to determine the Operating System support for your product - Part 8

In this series of posts, I have been talking about the Operating System support provided in your applications. In the previous post (Operating System support for your software application - Part 7), I talked about support for 32 bit vs. 64 bit and also talked about how support provided by components can be a huge factor in the operating systems that you support. I took the example of a video application which depends on a large number of external components for codecs, encoders and decoders, for writing to DVD and Blu-Ray and for other parts of the application. If some of these components drop support for an operating system and that component is a critical part of the application, then it is time to take the decision to drop an Operating System. I know of a number of software applications that finally dropped support for Windows XP because 1) Microsoft is on its way to dropping support for Windows XP, with this support ending in 2014. 2) A number of external components dropped support for Windows XP and these were critical enough that the management team of the application finally bit the bullet and dropped support for Windows XP as well.
What happens when you cannot afford to drop support for an application such as where components have dropped support, but the customer profile is such that there is still revenue to be had from customers on this operating system ? Well, that is not a very nice place to be, but you still need to take a stand. If the revenue is important, then you will need to support that specific operating system. So what do you do ? There are a number of steps that you can take to ensure that your product remains on that operating system.
1. Well, you will need to make another effort to ensure that the external component retains support for that specific operating system. If the company or group providing the external component is not willing to provide full support, ask whether they are willing to maintain it to the level that was previously supported. If this is another group in the company, then the revenue potential provides some leverage to ensure that escalation can happen and support is maintained, even if it is at a lower level (only critical bug fixes are provided rather than all bug fixes).
2. The most risky approach. You take a chance and go with a component that is not supported by the provider on that specific operating system. The problem in this case would be that if there is some critical problem that has emerged, things can go out of control very easily, and lead to a situation where there are no good options.
3. Look for alternatives. There are very few functionality items that would not have multiple providers, even if the alternative is a less than perfect functionality. If using another component provides a solution, then you should evaluate the other component and use it if it meets your purpose (even if less than perfect).
4. Prepare for a reduced functionality. I have seen many products using such an approach. When there are no alternatives, and it is decided that support for the specific operating system needs to be continued, then it may be something as easy as dropping the component which has dropped support for the operating system, and having the product without the functionality provided by that component. This needs to communicated to customers as well so that they know that there will be reduced functionality on that specific operating system.

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