Microsoft Outlines Lifecycle Support Policy

Microsoft to offer mainstream support for business and development software for five years from product's release.

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday released a new worldwide lifecycle support policy for almost all of its products currently available through retail purchase or volume licensing and for most of its future products. The policy is effective immediately.

The new Support Lifecycle policy, which Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer alluded to in a broad customer e-mail sent out earlier this month, essentially provides mainstream support for business and development software for a minimum of five years from the date of a products general release.

Users also have the option of buying an additional two years support, as long as they are on the latest or immediately preceding service pack, Microsoft said.

Mainstream support for most consumer, multimedia and hardware products will be for a minimum of five years from the time of the product release, while consumer products, which are upgraded annually, such as Money, Encarta, Streets & Trips and Picture It! will receive three years of mainstream support but will not be eligible for extended support.

Mainstream support includes all the support options and programs that customers currently receive, such as no-charge incident support, paid incident support, support charged on an hourly basis, support for warranty claims and hotfix support, Microsoft said.

Extended support may include support charged on an hourly basis and paid hotfix support. A "hotfix" is a change to a products software code to address specific critical problems. Users wanting extended hotfix support must buy an extended hotfix support contract within 90 days of the end of the mainstream support phase.

Most products will also receive at least eight years of online self-help support. Microsoft has set up a Web site where users can find the timeline for different products.

So, as an example, Microsoft will provide mainstream support for Windows 2000 Professional until March 2005, at which time that product will move to extended support for two years, followed by another year of pure online support. Support for the product will cease on March 31, 2008.