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Vista Losing 'Mainstream' Support April 10

This month marks the passing of a few Windows and Office product lifecycle milestones, which likely are of note for IT pros.

Tomorrow will mark the ending date for mainstream support of Windows Vista, according to Microsoft's Vista lifecycle chart. Microsoft's product lifecycle for its enterprise software typically consists of two five-year support periods, including "mainstream support" and "extended support."

Mainstream support includes options to get paid support, non-security hotfix support and security updates from Microsoft, among other matters. Some of those options will disappear for Vista users on April 10, 2012, although the crucial security updates will continue to flow for another five years. Notably, Vista users will lose "no-charge incident support," warranty claims will expire and organizations won't be able to get design and feature change requests completed through Microsoft. See Microsoft's product lifecycle FAQ for all of the details.

Essentially, Vista will be entering Microsoft's extended support phase for another five years, starting on April 10. However, many organizations likely still use the decade-old Windows XP, having skipped Vista. Current data from Net Applications show Windows XP use leading at 47 percent, followed by Windows 7 use at 38 percent, while Vista use trails far behind at eight percent.

Windows XP and Office 2003 Support
April also is the "cruelest month" for users of some of Microsoft's other flagship products. Mainstream support ended a few years ago for Windows XP -- on April 14, 2009. The operating system is scheduled to lose extended support on April 8, 2014, according to Microsoft's Windows XP lifecycle chart.

A Microsoft blog notes that Office 2003 also will lose extended support on April 8, 2014. That means organizations will face the prospect of not getting any more security updates for this productivity suite in two years' time. For some reason, Microsoft's Office 2003 lifecycle chart just shows the April 8, 2014 as the end of extended support for "Office 2003 Web Components," but that date appears to apply to the whole suite.

Once Microsoft products exit extended support, they are called "unsupported products" by Microsoft. Fixes are available on a static basis through existing Microsoft online support resources. Alternatively, organizations can contact a Microsoft partner to get assistance. Microsoft lists its "retired product support options" here.

Skip to Windows 8?
Those organizations using Windows XP and Office 2003 that hope to skip an upgrade and go directly to Windows 8 and the next Office (codenamed "15") generally get discouraging advice. Microsoft's blog argues against it. Gartner analysts Michael Silver and Stephen Kleynhans give some specific advice in that regard, predicting that Windows 8 might be launched in the fourth quarter of this year. They caution that it can take 12 to 24 months for IT organizations to move users to a new Windows OS.

Gartner actually recommends that IT organizations not focus on moving to Windows 8. Instead, they should concentrate on getting to Windows 7 first, they advise.

Microsoft also has a "custom support" option for organizations that need more time to migrate. However, to get that kind of support, organizations need to have a Microsoft "Premier Support" contract in place, and they will have to pay for that support.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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