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Microsoft to support Surface Pro tablet until 2017

Hardware gets 4+ years of support, but the Windows 8 Pro OS gets 10

Microsoft will support its Surface Pro tablet until July 2017, or almost four-and-a-half years after its launch last weekend, the company's website confirmed.

Like its predecessor the Surface RT, the Windows 8-powered Surface Pro sports a support lifecycle that's less than half the usual 10 years Microsoft allots its software products.

Microsoft will support the Surface Pro only in a "Mainstream" support phase, the company said on its lifecycle website.

Last year, Microsoft announced a similar support schedule for the Surface RT. That device, which launched in late Oct. 2012, will be supported until April 2017, or nearly four-and-a-half years.

Microsoft typically supports consumer-grade software only during a five-year mainstream stretch. Business software and operating systems receive another five-year span, called "Extended" support, for a total of 10 years.

During the four years of support for the Surface Pro, Microsoft will offer hardware repair -- free during the warranty period, for-a-fee after that -- as well as make available parts and replacement units. Telephone-based support will also be offered only during the four-year period.

But the Surface Pro's operating system -- Windows 8 Pro -- will continue to be supported long after the hardware is retired.

"For the Surface device, the software embedded in it is subject to the Microsoft software lifecycle support policy, as is any software that is installed or downloaded on that Surface device," Microsoft stated in an FAQ.

Microsoft will support Windows 8 Pro for 10 years total, with the decade broken into five years of mainstream support and five of extended support. Non-security bug fixes and feature updates will be available during the former, while vulnerability patches will be offered in both.

Windows 8 Pro's mainstream support ends in Jan. 2018, while extended runs until Jan. 2023.

The company has yet to spell out the length of support for Windows RT, the limited version of Windows that powers the Surface RT tablet. As of Tuesday, an FAQ on its website continued to state, "Additional information regarding the Windows RT lifecycle policy will be communicated as available."

The shorter-than-usual support for the Surface Pro hardware is not groundbreaking: Apple also supports its tablets for short stretches.

For example, Apple last issued an iOS update for the first-generation iPad on May 7, 2012, just two years and one month after the tablet's April 3, 2010 on-sale date.

iOS 6, which Apple launched last September, does not run on the 2010 iPad. Assuming Apple maintains that unwritten practice, it will drop the iPad 2 from support before the middle of this year.

The Surface Pro went on sale Feb. 9. Within hours, the $999 128GB configuration sold out. The $899 model with 64GB of storage space remains available from Microsoft's online store.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Read more about tablets in Computerworld's Tablets Topic Center.


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