Q&A: Microsoft Standardizes Support Lifecycle

Lori Moore, Corporate Vice President, Product Support Services

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 15, 2002 — Microsoft today announced a Support Lifecycle policy designed to provide customers with a clear and consistent framework for product support. According to Steve Kleynhans, vice president with Meta Research,
“A clear and predictable roadmap for lifecycle support is essential in effectively planning implementations of new technology, to justify purchases with management and to budget for replacements.”

PressPass spoke with Lori Moore , Microsoft corporate vice president for Product Support Services, to find out why Microsoft created the new policy and how it will work.

PressPass: What prompted Microsoft to provide a comprehensive Support Lifecycle roadmap?

Moore: Through customer focus groups, Microsoft learned that customers do not have a clear understanding of vendor lifecycle plans. Instead they rely on expectations of how often new releases occur, and react to retirement announcements. Having an understanding of the support lifecycle at the time of a product release provides customers consistent and predictable support guidelines. Providing a roadmap and a policy based on years, rather than versions, can help enable best practices in planning and budgeting for customers.

PressPass: How was the Support Lifecycle developed?

Moore: In responding to what we heard from customers, Microsoft worked closely with customers, business and industry partners, leading analysts, and research firms to determine what a clear and consistent support lifecycle policy would look like.

PressPass: Can you define the terms of the Microsoft Support Lifecycle?

Moore: The Support Lifecycle policy is a standardization of Microsofts product support policies. The policy takes effect today (Oct. 15) and applies to most products currently available via retail purchase or volume licensing, and future release products. For business and development software, the new Support Lifecycle policy provides mainstream support for a minimum of five years from the date of a product’s general availability with an option to purchase extended support during the two years following mainstream support, provided the customer is on the latest or immediately preceding (if still supported) service pack. For most consumer, multimedia and hardware products, a minimum of five years mainstream support will be provided from the date of a products general availability. Consumer products that have a new version released each year — such as Money, Encarta, Streets & Trips, and Picture it! — will receive three years mainstream support. These products are not eligible for extended support. Additionally, most products will receive at least eight years of online self-help support. Customers should check the Web site http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle for the timeline for their particular product.

PressPass: What is the difference between mainstream, extended and online self-help support?

Moore: Mainstream support includes all the support options and programs that customers receive today, such as no-charge incident support, paid incident support, support charged on an hourly basis, support for warranty claims and hotfix support. Whats a hotfix? Its a modification to the commercially available Microsoft product software code to address specific critical problems.

Extended support may include support charged on an hourly basis and paid hotfix support. In order to receive hotfix support, an extended hotfix support contract must be purchased within the first 90 days following the end of the mainstream support phase. Microsoft will not accept requests for warranty support, design changes or new features during the extended phase. Online self-help resources provide customers the ability to query the Knowledge Base and utilize resources on http://microsoft.com/support to find answers to their technical questions.

PressPass: Does this Policy affect U.S. customers only, or is it worldwide?

Moore: The Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy is a worldwide policy; however, Microsoft understands that local laws, market conditions and requirements for support needs differ around the world, and differ by industry sector. To this end, Microsoft offers custom support relationships that go beyond the extended support phase. These custom support relationships may include assisted support and hotfix-level support, and may extend beyond 10 years from the date a product becomes generally available. Strategic partners of Microsoft may also offer support beyond the extended support phase. Customers and business and industry partners should contact their account team or local Microsoft representative for more information.

PressPass: Why is Microsoft defining a Support Lifecycle?

Moore: Customers have asked Microsoft to be consistent and to demonstrate predictability. The Support Lifecycle policy is designed to establish a clear and predictable policy for product support timelines, to assist customers and business and industry partners with managing their support needs, product planning and information technology planning within their organizations — based on knowledge of the support timelines for Microsoft products.

PressPass: What does the Support Lifecycle mean to customers?

Moore: Predictability. Feedback from Microsoft’s customers and business and industry partners indicated there was a need for Microsoft to provide a consistent and predictable framework for product support.

PressPass: How is Microsoft communicating the Support Lifecycle to customers?

Moore: Microsoft has already begun communicating to customers through ongoing contact with product support representatives, executive e-mail and direct mail. In addition, we have communicated to the analyst community so they can better inform customers on future buying decisions.

PressPass: What is the customer advantage in determining support lifecycle by years versus versions?

Moore: In talking with customers, we heard that a predictable lifecycle support, based in years, would enable them to better plan their deployments and support needs and be more efficient. Version-based lifecycles are not as predictable and are unable to provide a clear product roadmap.

PressPass: When will the Support Lifecycle go into effect?

Moore: The new lifecycle policy takes effect today (Oct. 15, 2002) and applies to most products currently available via retail purchase or volume licensing, and most future products. Customers should check the complete list of products at http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle.

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