There have been many questions about the future of Windows RT, the version of Win8 tailored for ARM-based devices. We now have a better idea of how long Microsoft will support the Surface tablet designed for it, though. ZDNet's Ed Bott has combed through Microsoft's support policies and discovered that the Surface RT's mainstream support period will last until April 11, 2017—more than 4.5 years after the release of the system.
That support period should include firmware updates for the tablet in addition to software updates for the OS. However, the official support page doesn't list an end date for Windows RT support. Instead, it points to a separate FAQ that states: "Additional information regarding the Windows RT lifecycle policy will be communicated as available." Bott expects Windows RT to be supported for at least five years, the minimum period Microsoft defines for consumer software.
Even if Windows RT is buried after the Surface RT's support period runs out, that's still quite a long time to be receiving updates. Bott astutely points out that the original iPad, which is only 2.5 years old, no longer qualifies for iOS updates. Things aren't much better on the Android side, where most tablets are lucky to get timely OS updates within the first year, let alone after that. Only Nexus-branded devices seem to receive consistent OS updates, and it's unclear how long the various models will be supported. Even Asus, which has done a better job keeping up with OS updates than other Android device makers, appears to have no plans to bring Jelly Bean or subsequent versions of Android to its original Transformer tablet. That particular Transformer model is only a year and a half old, making Microsoft's Surface RT support period look pretty generous.