Just days before launching Windows Vista, Microsoft has decided to extend the support lifecycle for the consumer versions of its currently shipping Windows XP system.
Microsoft is now providing five years of "mainstream" support, plus five years of "extended support" for XP Media Center and XP Home Edition. Previously, Microsoft provided no extended support for the consumer versions of its XP operating system.
Consequently, consumer versions of XP are now covered under mainstream support through April 2009, and under extended support through April 2014.
As a result of the change, announced on January 24, Microsoft now provides the same number of years of support for business and consumer versions of Windows XP.
The main difference between mainstream and extended support is the way Microsoft treats non-security-focused hotfixes. Under mainstream support, Microsoft provides these kinds of hotfixes for free. Under extended, customers are required to pay for non-security hotfixes and must sign an "extended hotfix agreement, purchased within 90 days of mainstream support ending."