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Microsoft Turns Up The Heat On Windows 2000 Users

Companies that rely on Windows 2000 face tough, end-of-lifecycle choices as Microsoft pushes upgrades to Windows Vista, 2003, and Longhorn Server.

Regardless of whether Microsoft apps are unnecessarily shutting out Windows 2000, the writing is on the wall. The company has fairly strict policies defining when it stops supporting older products. In the case of Windows 2000, the end of what Microsoft calls "mainstream support" came in June 2005.

To understand the concept of mainstream support, you need to understand that there are three lifecycle policies that affect Microsoft products:

Microsoft offers five years of
(click image for larger view)

Microsoft offers five years of "mainstream support" and an additional five years of "extended support" before a business product falls into online-only support.
  • Consumer products, such as Windows XP and Service Pack 2, get five years of mainstream support. After that, support will only be provided by Knowledge Base articles online. The "consumer products" category includes Microsoft Dynamics, a line of offerings formerly known as Microsoft Business Solutions.
  • Annually updated products, such as Microsoft Money and Encarta, get an even shorter leash. They're supported for three years.
  • Business software, such as Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003, enjoy five years of mainstream support plus an additional five years of "extended support," after which they drop into online-only support purgatory. It's this kind of software support that most affects IT organizations.

Extended support, according to Microsoft, includes the continued development of critical security patches and the availability of paid support. It doesn't include the Redmond company taking requests for new design features — a luxury that's reserved for products that are still in the mainstream-support phase.

Some nonsecurity hotfixes will also be provided by Microsoft outside of the initial five-year mainstream period. However, according to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ, companies must purchase an "extended hotfix agreement" within 90 days of the end of mainstream support. That leaves in the lurch a lot of companies that didn't immediately leap to buy such a contract.

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