Does the Windows end of sales policy impact the Support Lifecycle?

Over the past few days, you may have seen or heard about Microsoft MCTS Training end of sales policy for Windows and the specific end of sales dates for Windows Vista.  In today’s post, I want to discuss how the sales policy does and doesn’t relate to the Support Lifecycle policy.

First, let’s talk about the end of sales lifecycle.  Generally speaking, “end of sales” is a term used to describe the deadlines when it will no longer be possible for customers to obtain a product through retailers, system builders or OEMs (such as Dell, Lenovo or Sony).  In this week’s announcement, the Windows team blog outlined specific rules that will govern the availability of Windows products in each of these channels.  Basically, the revised end of sales policy for Windows is based on when the next version of Windows will be available.  Once the new version is released, it will start an end of sales clock in each of the channels.  Retailers, for example, will be able to sellthe previous version of Windows for one year following the release of a new version.  For OEMs, that deadline is 2 years.  For complete details on the policy for each channel, please see the  Windows team blog.

With the clarifications to the Windows end of sales policy, our customers can clearly calculate the end of sales dates for all Windows products, including Windows Vista.  This means that after October 22, 2010, customers will not be able to obtain Windows Vista through their local retailer. If they get Windows from an OEM or system builder, they will have another year — until October 22, 2011 — to purchase Windows Vista.  October 22nd 2010 also signifies when many downgrade facilitation rights expire through OEMs, though customers can continue to qualify for end user downgrade rights to Windows XP for as long as Windows 7 is sold if they purchase Ultimate or Professional-preinstalled Windows PCs.

So that covers the “end of sales”, but how does that relate to the Support Lifecycle for these products?

The Support Lifecycle policy refers to the “end of support” deadlines for Microsoft products.  As you may recall, the Support Lifecycle policy begins with the Mainstream Support phase.  For Business & Developer products there is also a second phase, called the Extended Support phase.  These phases begin on the General Availability (GA) date of a product.  Microsoft provides Mainstream Support phase for a minimum of 5 years from the General Availability date (at a supported service pack level).  For Business & Developer products, the Extended Support phase will last another 5 years following the end of the Mainstream Support phase (at a supported service pack level).

So, how does the end of sales date and the Support Lifecycle dates impact each other?  Generally speaking, they don’t have a direct impact on one another, other than that the clock for both cycles begins when a new product is shipped.  Microsoft MCITP Certification will continue supporting products according to the Support Lifecycle policy.  The end of sales date does not impact any of the dates related to the Mainstream Support phase or the Extended Support phase.  This is because the Support Lifecycle date calculations are all based on the date of General Availability of the current product version, and not its end of sales date.

For Windows Vista, this means that the Mainstream Support phase will continue until April 10, 2012.  For the editions of Windows Vista that fall under our Business & Developer products policy, the Extended Support phase will continue through April 11, 2017.  For product support dates for specific editions of Windows Vista and other Microsoft products, please visit http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/.

It is probably important to highlight that while the end of sales and Support Lifecycle dates do not have a direct impact on one another these policies have been developed with each other in mind, to help ensure that when our customers purchase a product they are still able to obtain support for a number of years to come.  Even if a customer purchases a Windows product on the last date of sales availability, we want to ensure that our customers have time to productively use our products before they reach the end of support.  For example, under the new “end of sales” policy for Windows and the current Support Lifecycle policy, customers will have a minimum of 1 year in the Mainstream Support phase if they purchase on the last day of retail availability.

I hope this helps clarify any questions regarding the end of sales and the Support Lifecycle policy.  If you have any questions, please feel free to submit them below.  We’ll do our best to address them in a follow-up posting!

*This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights.*