Unravel the MS Product Support Mystery: Updated Support Policy

Starting June 1 2004, changes have been announced to the support policy for various products.

In the new support policy, the support for most software (business and developer products) has been extended minimally to 10 years (5 years mainstream and 5 years extended) from 7 years (5 years mainstream and 2 years extended). However, support for consumer, hardware and multimedia products stay at 5 years. Mainstream products (e.g. Money, Encarta, Picture It) released annually are only supported for 3 years.

Mainstream support includes all support including security updates and request for hotfixes. In the extended support phase, only paid support is available and no warranties are entertained.
Self help support and Security updates are available by using KB articles and other resources throughout the mainstream and extended support timelines.

For the newly available Service Packs, an older version is supported for 12 months (24 in special cases) with extended support automatically coming into play once a newer service pack is available. All service pack support ends whenever the product support is over.

To study a case, if you bought Windows 2000 Professional (released 31-Mar-2000) 2 years after its release (i.e. around 31 Mar 2002), you will be getting mainstream support for next 3 years till 30-Jun-2005. Post Jun 2005, you can request for paid support till 30-Jun-2010. Of course, the self help support is available throughout.
For the service packs the latest being SP4,
if you are still at SP1 (released 31-Jul-2000), the support ended 01-Aug-2002
if you are on SP2 (released 16-May-2001), the support will soon end on 30-Jun-2004
if you are on SP3 (released 01-Aug-2002), the support will end on 30-Jun-2005
if you are on SP4 (released 26-Jun-2003), the outer limit for support is 30 Jun 2010. the same will be revised if SP5 is released.
Lesson: Stay with the current Service Pack to benefit from the support policieis.
Microsoft may extended the support beyond the given timelines as well.

So what does this mean? It may mean that Microsoft is waking up to a reality that customers might be wanting less frequent releases of the products. Delay in Longhorn and other products may already be an indication on the delay that is now a business need *from customers* rather than development and project delays.
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