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MS announces complex and baffling product lifecycle list

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Microsoft today announced what it categorised as more "consistent and predictable guidelines" (surely "rules"? - Ed) for customer support. Entirely consistently and predictably, it's ruddy baffling and you've got to strain quite hard to work out what they mean, as opposed to panicking about what they say.

For the record, what they mean is that most new Microsoft products are now supported by the company for five years after general availability, and that, er, there'll be some more support available for a rather difficult to define period beyond that. The first part of this is maybe progress, as previously Microsoft liked to support the current OS and the previous one, but at the very least dragged its feet over anything beyond that. And the second? How the blazes should we know? We thought we knew what they were on about until we looked at the dates here. And note that some satirist has tagged the page obsoletewin.

Now, right down at the bottom you'll see WinXP Pro, which clearly became GA on 10/25/2001 (we'll humour them and go with the US date format), goes out of mainstream support on 12/31/2006, and has extended support available until 12/31/2008. That is all clear and makes sense, and that extra two years is accounted for by the "option to purchase extended support during the two years following mainstream support" on business and development software.

Just above that we've got XP Home, same dates (near enough), but no purchasable extended support, so that is also clear. You are not a business, go away.

Try, however, to make any sense whatsoever out of the nightmare pile of scrap software preceding these entries. NT 4.0 Workstation is dead already, and gets one year extended support which expires in the middle of next year. Windows 2000 Professional, on the other hand, seems to be dead already too, with support already "ended," and extended support "n/a."

But we're prepared to have a go at figuring out what they mean, as opposed to what they say here. Given that Windows 2000 SP3 is supported until 3/31/2005, then maybe that means Win2k itself is supported until then. Kind of difficult to disentangle the two, really. But erm, if Microsoft were to do an SP4 for Win2k, say, middle of next year, wouldn't that mean Win2k support clanking on until mid-2008? Is this really what they mean?

We are informed that senior marketing manager Lars Ahlgren will be available to field press queries about all this tomorrow morning, and we've no idea what kind of dastardly crime you have to commit at Microsoft to get a gig like that. If any of you good people out there really want to try to make sense of the latest Microsoft product lifecycle documentation, then you could possibly use the help of the previous version, which is still live, here. But if you're worried about your head exploding, we suggest you just wait for publication of version 2.0. ®

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