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Microsoft Moves to 10-Year Lifecycle for Product Support

SAN DIEGO -- Microsoft on Tuesday formally extended support for all of its business software by a minimum of three years, clarifying the company's support plans as ship dates for major Microsoft infrastructure products have slipped by several years.

"We will move from seven years to a minimum of 10 years support for all of our business software," Andrew Lees, corporate vice president for servers and tools, said to applause in a speech at Microsoft's TechEd 2004 conference on Tuesday.

By announcing the extension, Microsoft is giving customers a way to predict what Microsoft had been doing in a haphazard way in recent years.

The company first presented a broad product support roadmap in October 2002. That roadmap called for five years of mainstream support, followed by two years of extended support for a total of seven years of product support.

In recent years, customer loyalty to Windows NT 4.0 and lengthening delays in delivery schedules for the "Yukon" version of SQL Server and the "Longhorn" versions of Windows have rendered the product support schedule unworkable.

Microsoft has responded several times on the Windows NT side by extending support deadlines.

The news plan calls for five years of mainstream support or two years of support beyond the release of the next product, whichever is longer. The customer-friendly caveat means mainstream support will not be less than five years but could be seven years or longer if necessary without a climate of uncertainty about whether Microsoft will decide to extend support or not.

Extended support now will last for a minimum of five years or two years after the second successor product ships, whichever is longer. Online self-help support has also been extended from eight years minimum to 10 years minimum.

Microsoft's support policy Web site, www.microsoft.com/lifecycle/, has links to information describing the changes. But detailed, product-by-product lists with the new support deadlines will not be published there until the policy goes into effect June 1.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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