Next month marks the deadlines for support -- in some cases, free support, in other cases, paid -- for a handful of older Microsoft Windows and Office products.
Microsoft is ending mainstream (free) support for Windows XP Home and Professional, as well as for its Office 2003 suite, on April 14, 2009. It also is "retiring" Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1), meaning it will no longer provide support for that four-year-old release.
Microsoft is offering paid, extended support for XP Professional users (who also have Software Assurance licensing contracts) until April 8, 2014. It also will provide paid, extended support for Office 2003 through August 4, 2012.
(Microsoft continues to provide free security-specific fixes to customers for its products, even if they don't pony up for "Extended Hotfix" support until the extended support date is reached.)
In case you're wondering about support deadlines for other Windows and Office products, here are a few of the key ones.
(Note: I've done my best to try to calculate some of the more cryptically-worded deadlines here; if you see any mistakes, let me know.):
Windows 2000: Free support ended June 30, 2005; paid support ends on July 13, 2010. Service Pack 3 was retired on June 30, 2005. No more SPs planned.
Windows XP SP2: Service pack will be retired on July 13, 2010.
Windows XP SP3: Service pack due to be retired two years after SP4 (if there is one) releases or in April 2014, whichever comes first.
Windows Vista Business: Free support ends on April 10, 2012; paid support ends on April 11, 2017.
Windows Vista SP1: Service pack will be retired two years after the release of SP2 (which is expected in April 2009), so likely in April 2011 (?).
Office 2003 SP3: Service pack will be retired one year after SP4 (if there is one, which is doubtful) is released or in August 2014, whichever comes first.
Office 2007: Free support ends on April 10, 2012; paid support ends on April 11, 2017.
Office 2007 SP1: Service pack will be retired a year after SP2 debuts, so likely in April 2010 (?).
Windows Server 2008: Free support ends September 7, 2013; paid support ends October 7, 2018.
April is also the rumored due date for the final Vista SP2 and Office 2007 SP2 updates. The support clock starts ticking on those once they are released to manufacturing.
Among the new features slated for Office 2007 SP2 are previously announced file-format changes — specifically support for Open Document Format (ODF), Microsoft’s own XML Paper Specfication (XPS) and PDF. SP2 also is expected add improvements to Outlook calendaring reliability and improved Outlook performance overall; improvements to Excel’s charting mechanism; the ability for Visio to export UML models to an XML file compliant with the XMI standard; and an uninstall tool for Office client service packs.
Vista SP2 is anticipated to include a new capability for recording data on to Blu-Ray media natively in Windows Vista; the addition of Windows Connect Now for simpler wifi configuration; fixes for DRM issues from WMP upgrades; the Vista Feature Pack for Wireless; functionality for reducing resources required for sidebar gadgets; and more.