Microsoft has extended its support window for its legacy Windows operating systems. In the past, the software giant provided five years of support for the consumer releases of the OS, while the business versions got extended coverage for a total of ten years. Microsoft has now quietly extended support of the retail versions of Windows Vista and 7 to ten years as well.
Under the new guidelines, support for mainstream users of Vista, which was supposed to end on April 10 of this year, will now continue until April 11, 2017. Support for Windows 7 will be in place until January 14, 2020. Windows XP coverage is still on track to end April 8, 2014.
Sales of older releases follow a different policy. Sales of retail boxed versions of an OS stop one year after a newer version is released. OEM sales stop after two years. Than means that if Windows 8 is shipped as a production release as planned this October, retail upgraders will able to buy Windows 7 until October, 2013, while computer makers can still get it until October 2014.
Windows 8's release schedule has come perpetually later than predicted by some, although it wasn't necessarily off-track. It was supposed to reach beta last September, with a general release in April; the release at the Build conference was closer to alpha and missed key features like e-mail. A truer beta is just arriving late this month, when the Consumer Preview edition arrives. Given Microsoft's past history of cautiously following beta testing with one or two release candidate versions, the release of a production version most likely has moved into the fall quarter of this year.
Microsoft explained the support extension for Windows 7, Vista, and XP as a means of providing a consistent coverage policy to all its customers, OEM, business and home alike. The extension isn't necessarily exceptional but marks a rare instance of consistent support.