Re: Techies hitting the beach perhaps...
"... not patched .... it's irrelevant as many are never online"
How irrelevant? These boxes are not online to the Internet, presumably? Are they also not online to the corporate/shopfloor LAN? No USB ports? No removable media at all? (No application updates or data transfers?)
You're aware of Stuxnet, right? And the many other varieties of malware that spread using sneakernet?
"Using replacement industrial control boards"
Industrial automation? You, and the people you work for and with, need to be fully aware of Stuxnet and friends.
"Unless Microsoft brings out a version of Windows for industry, engineers and scientists etc. which gives the user 'superuser' status and full control over the O/S"
Just wondering if you are aware of Windows XP Embedded and its (almost certainly irrelevant) successors, and whether you've rejected it, and if so, why?
Apart from anything else, Windows XP Embedded (which is Windows XP renamed and with a different licence) continues to get security patches (at no extra cost) till 2016. Look it up. It allegedly has a configuration tool which allows you to configure bits of the OS in and out. But the licence is a bit more restrictive than a generic XP licence.
If I was in your apparent position, I'd be wanting to skip MS's embedded offerings and look at one of the embedded-market Linuxes. Readers mostly won't have heard of them, but will likely have used several of them recently without even realising.
Yes there'll be pain initially, maybe substantial quantities of pain. But you're heading for pain anyway if you stay with MS. Move off MS to (embedded) Linux in this market and, just as per your wish, you control your own destiny.
"I know of some cases where existing *Windows 2000* installations are NOT expected to be replaced until the industrial plant it is installed on is replaced in about 2025."
That's going to get expensive as the years go by. I guess you knew that.
Best of luck. If you need any help...