Microsoft is introducing a fixed-term support policy for its products which it says will improve clarity and make it easier for customers to predict costs, justify purchases and budget for replacements.
Due to come into force tomorrow, the new policy is designed to standardise support guidelines across product lines, and will cover all products currently available via retail purchase or volume licensing, as well as future product releases.
Business and development software will be supported for five years from the date of the product's general availability. After that, customers have an option to purchase extended support for an additional two years.
Currently, mainstream support is only offered to two versions of software: the current release and its immediate predecessor.
But Microsoft admitted that the unpredictable nature of software releases mean that corporate IT forward planning can be a nightmare for many customers.
Lars Ahlgren, senior marketing manager at Microsoft, told vnunet.com that the new support model would add much more predictability to product lifecycle management.
"We hope this will extend the life of IT investments," he said. "In the past customers were tied to future release schedules, which can be unpredictable.
"Customers didn't know how long they could have a product in production and how long they could use it. They depend so much on their IT infrastructure, and they need the support structure in place.
"Customers will win with this announcement. We want to make sure that current products will be transferred into this policy.
"Customers today look at their IT investments like any other investment and they're looking for that investment to pay off over time."
But Ahlgren warned that calculating the financial return of the support changes is difficult. "It's hard to say what difference it will make financially, but customers will be able to maintain their systems for longer," he said.
Details of the products covered by the new support model are available on the Microsoft website here.
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