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.
: Microsoft Outlines Lifecycle Support Policy”>
For Windows XP Professional, mainstream support will be available until the end of December 2006, when two years of extended support kicks in, followed by a year of online support. Support for this product will end January 1, 2010.
This new lifecycle support schedule will apply to the upcoming Windows .Net 2003 server family, slated for release in the first quarter of 2003.
But the news is bleak for Windows 95 and 98 users, as those products remain under the old product lifecycle plan, which means Windows 95 reaches loses support at the end of this year.
Windows 98 and Windows NT 4 moved into a year of extended support at the end of June, which means on June 20, 2003 they will move to online self-help support for a year and then become completely unsupported at the end of June 2004.
With regard to Office, Microsoft will continue to offer the current assisted support options on Office 97 through January 16, 2004. Office 97 downloads for security issues will be available through normal assisted support channels at no charge during this time. Web-based self-help support will be available for at least one year after assisted support has concluded, Microsoft said.
For Office 2000, Microsoft will continue to offer mainstream hotfix support through June 30, 2004. In addition, no-charge incident support and personal pay-per-incident support will continue through June 30, 2005. Office 2000s extended support period will last from July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2006.
Microsoft will also continue to offer mainstream hotfix support on Office XP through June 30, 2006. No-charge personal incident support and personal pay-per-incident support will continue through June 30, 2007. The extended support period for Office XP will last from July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2008.
In a statement explaining the Redmond, Wash., software firms rationale for the changes, Lori Moore, Microsofts corporate vice president for customer product support services, said users had asked Microsoft to be consistent and to demonstrate predictability.
“The Support Lifecycle policy is designed to establish a clear and predictable policy for product support timelines, to assist customers and business and industry partners with managing their support needs, product planning and information technology planning within their organizations.
“Providing a roadmap and a policy based on years, rather than versions, can help enable best practices in planning and budgeting for customers,” she said.