Microsoft ends mainstream support for Windows XP


— 2:15 PM on April 14, 2009

Windows XP is still going strong in netbooks and as an alternative for some pre-built PCs, but make no mistake: it's reaching the end of the line. Today, as scheduled, Microsoft has ended the mainstream support phase for the nearly eight-year-old operating system.

What does that mean? In a nutshell, it looks like Microsoft will stop releasing non-security-related hot fixes and providing free support directly to Windows XP users. Here's a handy table (nabbed from Microsoft's support lifecycle policy page) that puts things in perspective:

Support provided Mainstream support
Extended support
Paid support (per-incident, per hour, and others) x x
Security update support x x
Non-security hotfix support x Requires extended hotfix agreement, purchased within 90 days of mainstream support ending.
No-charge incident support x  
Warranty claims x  
Design changes and feature requests x  
Product-specific information that is available by using the online Microsoft Knowledge Base x x
Product-specific information that is available by using the Support site at Microsoft Help and Support to find answers to technical questions x x

The extended support phase is scheduled to last until April 8, 2014, which should give enterprise users and the like plenty of time to upgrade. According to a study we saw yesterday, though, a decent number of firms may take until then—or shortly before—to upgrade to Windows 7.

This change puts Microsoft in a strange position: it's officially backing off support for an operating system that, apparently, the majority of Windows users are still hanging onto. The latest Net Applications figures suggest that Windows XP had a 62.9% worldwide market share last month, while Windows Vista was still way behind with a usage share of just 23.4%.

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