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Microsoft: No more support for you, Office for Mac 2008

Continues to shortchange Mac users with just five years of Office support; Windows customers get support twice as long

Microsoft today reminded customers running Office for Mac 2008 that support for the suite ends next Tuesday.

"Support for Office for Mac 2008 will end April 9, 2013," Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MacBU), the firm's OS X development arm, said in a post on the team's blog Thursday.

According to the company's support lifecycle site, all versions of the 2008 suite will be retired next week. Office for Mac 2008 launched Jan. 15, 2008, or about five years and three months ago.

The MacBU's note was yet another reminder that Microsoft shortchanges customers running OS X. Microsoft supports the Windows versions of Office, even those that target consumers, for 10 years, or twice as long as it does Office for the Mac.

Office Home and Student 2007, for example, which launched in late January 2007, a full year before Office for Mac 2008 appeared, will be supported until October 2017, more than four years from now. The older Office Student and Teacher 2003 retires down the road, too, in April 2014, alongside Windows XP.

Even the Mac suite that's clearly business-oriented, Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition, loses support in a few days.

Office for Mac 2008 will not suddenly stop working next week; it will launch, and let users create, edit and print documents. But it will not be served with security updates after April 8.

For some reason, Microsoft considers all editions of Office for Windows as business products, no matter that some -- like Home and Student -- cannot be used for commercial purposes. At the same time it categorizes all editions of Office on OS X as consumer products.

That's clear from Microsoft's policies. On its support lifecycle FAQ, Microsoft explains support for business and consumer software.

"Microsoft will offer a minimum of 10 years of support for Business and Developer products," the company says. For consumer software, meanwhile, it states: "Microsoft will offer Mainstream Support for either a minimum of 5 years from the date of a product's general availability, or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer."

The speedy retirement of Office for Mac 2008 is not new: Users faced the same five-year support lifespan for Office for Mac 2004, which was shut down in January 2012.

Admittedly, that was more over two years later than the original deadline. But Microsoft's last-minute reprieve of Office for Mac 2004 was a one-time deal, as the MacBU made plain at the time. "This extension does not change the five-year support policy for other Office for Mac products, including future versions," a senior product manager said then.

Microsoft extended support for Office for Mac 2004 to allow its users, many of whom relied on Visual Basic-based macros, time to migrate to the impending Office for Mac 2011, which launched in October 2010. Office for Mac 2008 dropped support for Visual Basic macros, but that support was restored in Office for Mac 2011.

Yesterday, MacBU recommended that customers running Office for Mac 2004 migrate to Office 365, the line of subscription plans that lets users install Office for Mac Home & Business 2011 on up to five Macs. The consumer subscription plan, Office 365 Home Premium, costs $100 per year.

They can also opt for a "perpetual" license of Office for Mac 2011, the traditional kind that is paid for once, but can be used as long as wanted. Office for Mac Home and Student lists for $140, while the for-commercial-use Home and Business sells for $220.

Customers, however, have less than three more years before Office for Mac 2011 falls off Microsoft's support list in January 2016.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is [email protected].

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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