Microsoft promises to support Surface RT for 4+ years
But it's mum on the lifecycle of Windows RT, the OS that also powers OEMs' tablets
Computerworld - Microsoft will support its Surface RT tablet with updates, including security patches, until April 2017, or nearly four-and-a-half years after its launch.
The support lifecycle for the Surface with Windows RT tablet is less than half the usual 10 years Microsoft allots its software products -- including Windows 8 -- but is considerably longer than what Apple has given the first-generation iPad, which has already dropped off the Cupertino, Calif. company's list.
ZDNet blogger Ed Bott first reported on Microsoft's publication of the Surface RT's lifecycle.
Microsoft will support the Surface RT only in the "Mainstream" support phase, presumably because it's considered a consumer product. The company typically supports consumer-grade software only during that five-year period; all business software, as well as some titles that are designed for consumers, such as Office Home and Student 2010, receive another five-year stretch, called "Extended" support, for a total of 10 years.
The company usually supports its in-house hardware, such as the July-launched Wedge Touch Mouse, which was touted as an accessory for Windows 8-based tablets and laptops, for five years. Microsoft classified the Surface RT as hardware in its support lifecycle index.
It's not clear why Microsoft decreased the Surface RT's support lifespan by a year from the normal hardware lifecycle: Bott speculated that it may have been because the tablet was "a hardware-software combo, [and] plays by a different set of rules, apparently."
But the four-years-and-change for the Surface RT is twice what Apple granted the original iPad.
iOS 6, which Apple launched in September, does not work on the original iPad.
Assuming Apple hews to that unwritten support plan, it will dump the iPad 2 from its list in mid-2013.
The disparity between the two companies' support policies isn't unusual. Both Microsoft's typical decade of support and its five years for hardware and some consumer products, exceeds the 35-month average support lifespan of OS X, the operating system that powers Apple's Mac personal computers.
Unlike Microsoft, Apple never puts its support lifecycle lengths in writing.
But while Microsoft revealed the Surface RT's lifecycle, it declined to spell out how long it will support Windows RT, the touch-enabled, tile-based OS that runs not only the Surface, but some tablets sold by other computer makers.
In a cryptic FAQ published on its support site, Microsoft said only, "Microsoft will make software updates, including security updates, available for Windows RT. Additional information regarding the Windows RT lifecycle policy will be communicated as available."
Supporting Windows RT -- as opposed to the Surface RT -- for less than 10 years would be a dramatic departure for Microsoft, and could raise the ire of customers, especially businesses that have adopted, or plan to, the mobile operating system.
For example, Windows 8, which Microsoft also launched Oct. 26, remains in Mainstream support until Jan. 9, 2018, and won't be fully retired until Jan. 10, 2023, when it exits Extended support.
To demarcate Windows RT's lifecycle as shorter than a decade would also rub against a move Microsoft made last February, when it quietly extended support for the consumer versions of Windows 7 and Windows Vista by five years, for a total of 10, to synchronize them with the lifespan of enterprise editions.
The lifecycle for Surface RT could be a harbinger of a shorter-than-usual support lifetime for Surface Pro, the not-yet-released tablet Microsoft plans to launch at the end of January 2013. That tablet will be powered by an Intel processor, and run Windows 8 Pro.
More tablet info
The table below shows the most recently announced tablets as reported by Computerworld. Click a tablet's name in the leftmost column to read a news story or review with more information about the device, or view a larger table with more details about each product.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Microsoft discounts Surface for college kids, goes for price edge over Apple's MacBook Air
- Surface damage mounts at Microsoft as red ink reaches $1.7B
- Microsoft again writes off Surface inventory, renews profitability doubts
- Surface survives Microsoft cuts, but tablet strategy remains muddled
- Surface Pro 3 not a notebook replacement to DIYers who want inside
- Microsoft wants MacBook Air owners to trade up to a Surface Pro by trading in
- Surface Pro 3 'notebook' reaches retail today
- Whoops! Microsoft goof confirms Surface Mini
- Surface Pro 3 deep-dive review: Has Microsoft finally got it right?
- Perspective: The Surface Pro is Microsoft's latest premature introduction problem
Read more about Tablets in Computerworld's Tablets Topic Center.
- QA Automation: Reducing Test Execution While Improving Coverage A leading capital investment firm in the US was in need of a comprehensive, cost effective and flexible solution to reduce their existing...
- Tablet, Laptop, or Desktop - Form (Factor) Follows Function Desktops, laptops, Ultrabooks, tablets, convertibles, and all-in-ones; suddenly hardware decisions seem a lot more complicated. To take advantage of these benefits, the savviest...
- The IT handbook for Windows 7 and Windows 8 migrations A comprehensive guide for IT departments making the switch from legacy versions of Microsoft Windows to Windows 7 and Windows 8. To date,...
- 7 Reasons Why Windows 8 is the Future Touch, cloud, BYOD and IT consumerization dominate the mindshare of IT managers. Windows 8 enters the scene with a host of features that...
- Cloud BI in Action: Recorded Webinar of Customer, Kony, Inc. See how Kony, Inc., a leading enterprise mobility company, is using TIBCO Jaspersoft for Amazon Web Services and Redshift to achieve embedded analytics...
- Cloud BI Overview: Jaspersoft for AWS Check out this overview of Jaspersoft for AWS, to easily and affordably build business intelligence solutions as well as embed visualizations and analytics... All Operating Systems White Papers | Webcasts