Microsoft puts hand on Office XP plug, ready to pull

Reminds everyone that the 10-year-old suite will exit support in July

Microsoft today reminded customers that it will pull the support plug for the aged Office XP in July.

Office XP, which launched nearly 10 years ago, will exit support July 12, that month's Patch Tuesday. The date will be the last time Microsoft issues security updates for the suite.

Microsoft regularly warns users of impending end-of-support dates. Last year, for example, it mentioned the July 2010 end to Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) support on several consecutive months.

The company supports its business products for 10 years, the first five in what it calls "mainstream support," and the second five in "extended support." The biggest difference between the two phases is that in the latter, non-security fixes are provided only to companies that have signed support contracts with Microsoft.

Microsoft provides users with free security patches for the entire 10-year stretch.

Office XP was last patched in December 2010, when Microsoft fixed seven flaws in the suite's graphics parsers. During 2010, Microsoft issued 18 security updates for Office XP.

In December, Microsoft also revamped Office XP and Office 2003 so that the older suites use the more secure GDI+ (Graphics Device Interface) rendering component called on by Office 2007 and 2010.

With Office XP falling off the support list, Microsoft urged users to upgrade to a newer edition.

Office 2003, which left mainstream support two years ago, is eligible for security updates until Jan. 14, 2014. Office 2007 and Office 2010 will receive patches until April 2017 and October 2020, respectively.

Users can continue to run out-of-support software -- there's no "kill switch" that gets thrown -- but without patches to plug holes, they may be at greater risk to hackers' exploits.

Microsoft last upgraded Office XP in 2004 when it released Service Pack 3 (SP3) for the suite.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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