Microsoft revamps product support

Not before time...
Written by Joe Wilcox, Contributor

Not before time...

Microsoft has published for the first time how long the company plans to offer customers software product support. The new policy means Microsoft customers now have clear guidelines by which they can evaluate how long the software giant will support its products. As part of the new support policy, Microsoft greatly extended how long it would support some products, long due for retirement. Microsoft business and software development products will be supported for five years under the plan. Extended support, which costs companies extra, will be available for an additional two years. The five-year period also applies to consumer products and multimedia software. Online, self-help support will be available for all products for at least eight years. "We really wanted to give customers information when they were buying our products or making deploying decisions (about) just how long support would be available to them," said Andy Erlandson, a product director in Microsoft's Product Support Services division. Analysts generally praised the announcement, which they also said was too long coming. "People were starting to get worried, because the likely release dates that were starting to come out for some new products made it look like there might be some problems of people having to upgrade almost immediately to get support," said Paul DeGroot of Directions on Microsoft, an independent US research firm that follows the software giant. The overhauled support policy "does provide a fair amount of predictability," he said. Microsoft issued the policy changes and extended support on some products "because of customer pressure," said Gartner analyst Michael Silver. "Some of this information was not published before, so enterprises could not plan that well how long to hold on to a product." Under Microsoft's older policy, the company only needed to give customers six months notice before dropping support for a product. "This just wasn't enough notice," Silver said. "Now customers can plan on how long they can use a technology, plan projects and work out their budgeting." The change also prevents companies from moving to a new technology, only to have Microsoft pull support a short time later. For Microsoft the biggest change was developing a different metric for providing information on product support. Under the older policy, Microsoft based that information on the software version. But given how release dates of new products could slip, poor communication made it more difficult for businesses to plan when to retire existing software or when to switch to newer versions. "Our old school of thought was to make our support life cycles based on versions, but it became clear that didn't work with many of our customers," Erlandson said. "So one of the big changes we made was to move to dates." For more information, see http://www.microsoft.com/uk/support/lifecycle Joe Wilcox writes for News.com
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