Microsoft is to institute a new lifecycle policy that extends support for its products to a minimum of 10 years from the current seven years.
In addition to extending the support period, the updated policy provides increased support for IT infrastructure security assistance, Microsoft said at its Tech Ed conference in San Diego.
The announcement by Microsoft corporate vice-president, Andy Lees, was welcomed with applause from the audience.
Microsoft currently offers five years of mainstream support and two years of extended support. Under the new policy, which starts after June 1, Microsoft would provide extended support for five years or for two years after the second successor [major upgrade] product ships, whichever resulted in the longest support period.
“This is designed so that we never have less than two years for a customer to migrate to the next version,” a senior director at Microsoft, Peter Houston, said.
“With something like SQL Server 2005 the challenge was that without this updated policy, mainstream support for SQL Server 2000 might have ended before customers were able to migrate,” he said.
SQL Server is Microsoft’s database product. SQL Server 2005 is due out in the first half of next year. Mainstream support for the current SQL Server 2000 software was set to end on December 31, 2005, potentially giving customers only months to upgrade before the end of mainstream support. This includes all the support options and programs Microsoft offers, such as no-charge incident support, paid incident support, support charged on an hourly basis, support for warranty claims and hotfix support.
In the extended support period, Microsoft still offers all paid support options and security fixes, but won’t accept requests for warranty support, design changes or new features. Hotfix support not related to security issues requires a separate Extended Hotfix Support contract.
The updated support lifecycle policy is valid for Microsoft’s business and developer products that were currently in the mainstream support phase as well as future products, the company said.
The policy did not apply to consumer, hardware, multimedia and Microsoft Business Solutions products.
“Any business and developer product that is currently under mainstream support will fall under the new policy,” Houston said. An example was Windows 2000, he said. Versions of Windows and Office specifically for home use, such as Windows XP Home Edition, don’t fall under the policy, he said. Users of business and developer products currently in the extended support phase might also benefit from the change on a per-product basis, Microsoft said.
Any support policy changes take into account product roadmaps, customer migration needs and industry standards and requirements, the vendor said.
Microsoft has faced repeated criticism about its product lifecycle policy.
In October 2002, the vendor revised its product lifecycle and applied it to products released after that date as well as select operating systems that were released earlier, including Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
The October 2002 change did not apply to Windows 1998. Days before Microsoft was to end support for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition early this year, the vendor, as a result of user revolt, decided to extend the life of the products in the extended support phase.
The product support extension was an acknowledgement of the fact that customers weren’t upgrading products as fast as they used to, a senior analyst at research firm Directions of Microsoft, Peter Pawlak, said.
“Products aren’t turning over as much as they used to, so Microsoft finally decided that they would just have to move up the general support time,” he said. aMore information on support policy can be found on Microsoft’s support life-cycle policy website: http://www.microsoft.com/lifecycle/.