Microsoft has posted product lifecycle guidelines on its Web site in an effort to quell partner and customer concerns regarding continued warranties and support on operating systems.
The new guidelines will see Windows 95 drop off the support map at the end of 2001, with MS DOS x.xx, Windows 3.xx, and Windows 95 entering the "non supported phase" at the end of this year. This gives them a one-year reprieve, albeit online support only. Windows 98/98 SE and NT 4.xx will retain support until December 2004.
All Microsoft versions are supported for the first three years of their life, a period the vendors calls "the mainstream phase". A customer seeking versions beyond this period will have the option to order them from the price list, however, licences will only be available in the authorised OEM distribution channel and through downgrade rights available in volume licensing programs. In the fourth year a customer still has access to premiere support, paid incident support, paid hotfix support, and online support information. This is replaced in the fifth year by online support only.
"Three years is a typical time frame for a product," says Paul Roworth, senior product marketing manager of desktop windows for Microsoft Australia. Beyond this period he says the hardware advances are so great that they demand accelerated OS versions to match. Roworth feels the lifecycle guidelines will not be a drastic change for organisations, the vendor is merely bringing structure and predictability to existing purchasing trends.
The new guidelines are a direct response to business customers wanting to plan the lifespan of desktops at the time of installation or upgrade, according to Roworth. "Corporate customers are asking for specific guidlines on when a product will become obsolete," he says. Previously, Microsoft had no set strategy in place for a product exiting the market, support for a product was simply phased out when sales dropped below a certain quota.
Microsoft lifecycle guidelines can be accessed at www.microsoft.com/windows/lifecycle.asp