Microsoft next month will institute a new product lifecycle policy that extends support for Microsoft products to a minimum of 10 years from the current seven years, the company says.
In addition to extending the support period, the updated policy provides increased support for IT infrastructure security assistance, Microsoft said at its Tech Ed conference in San Diego.
Microsoft currently offers five years of mainstream support and two years of extended support. Under the new policy, which starts June 1, customers will still get at least five years of mainstream support starting when a product ships, but the support period now automatically extends for two years after the next version of the product ships. This could result in more than five years of mainstream support.
Under the new policy, after mainstream supports ends, Microsoft will provide extended support for five years or for two years after the second major upgrade of the product ships, whichever results in the longest support period, the vendor said.
However, the updated support lifecycle policy is only valid for Microsoft's business and developer products that are currently in the mainstream support phase as well as future products, the company says. The policy does not apply to consumer, hardware, multimedia, and Microsoft Business Solutions products.
"Any business and developer product that is currently under mainstream support will fall under the new policy," Houston says. An example is Windows 2000, he says. Versions of Windows and Office specifically for home use, such as Windows XP Home Edition, don't fall under the policy, he says.
Users of business and developer products currently in the extended support phase may also benefit from the change on a per-product basis, Microsoft said. Any support policy changes take into account product road maps, customer migration needs and industry standards and requirements, the vendor says.
Microsoft has faced repeated criticism about its product lifecycle policy. In October 2002 the software giant revised its product lifecycle and applied it to products released after that date as well as select operating systems that were released earlier, including Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
The October 2002 change did not apply to Windows 98. Days before Microsoft was to end support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition early this year, the vendor, as a result of user revolt, decided to extend the life of the products in the extended support phase.
The product support extension is an acknowledgement of the fact that customers aren't upgrading products as fast as they used to, says Peter Pawlak, a senior analyst at Directions of Microsoft, a research firm in Kirkland, Washington.
"Products aren't turning over as much as they used to, so Microsoft finally decided that they would just have to move up the general support time," he says.