I've seen a number of questions on the newsgroup in the past about the product lifecycle of WEPOS. Questions about how long Microsoft will support the current version of WEPOS, and what future releases might mean for the current edition's support. I hope the information below helps explain the lifecycle policy by providing some different scenarios as examples (note: in no way do these scenarios imply actual timelines for future releases – they are just examples J)
Windows Embedded for Point of Service support is defined by the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy. WEPOS is categorized in the "Business and Developer product" category and as such, Microsoft supports WEPOS for a MINIMUM of 10 years at the Service Pack Level. That is 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support.
- Mainstream Support covers incident support. With WEPOS we have paid incident support and OEMs and developers can call Microsoft for support. The current cost in the US is $245 per incident. Mainstream Support also covers Security Updates at no additional cost. This means that as Microsoft discovers and fixes security issues, we make those fixes available at no cost. Finally, with mainstream support, WEPOS customers can request non-security bug fixes. Those are called "hotfixes".
- Extended Support means that Microsoft keeps providing Security Updates at no additional cost, but there is no longer incident support.
Beyond the minimum of 10 years of product support, let's look at what the Support Policy says:
The 10 years of minimum support can be extended when there is a successor product. Under Microsoft Support Policy, when there is a successor product, the support end date is the greater of two things:
10 years of support from the original product release. That is 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support.
- 7 years of support from the successor product release date. That is 2 years of mainstream support from the successor product release date + 5 years of extended support from the successor product release date.
Those exact dates are actually calculated to be the second Tuesday of the next fiscal quarter 5 and 10 years after the release date. As a consequence, a product follows rule B, if a successor is planned and if it hasn't been released 3 years after the original product release.
This is a straightforward policy, but what does it mean to WEPOS?
Microsoft is committed to the Embedded space and we are committed to have a successor to WEPOS. When we talk about a successor to WEPOS, we mean a major product release, not smaller releases such as Service Packs and Feature Packs. Now, given that WEPOS was released on 5/24/2005, WEPOS follows rules A, which means that WEPOS is in mainstream support until 7/14/2015 and it will be in extended support until 7/14/2015. However, if WEPOS successor comes after 5/24/2008, the support for WEPOS will now follow rule B. This means that WEPOS would be in mainstream support until its successor comes and for 2 years after that.
Let's take a look at what this looks like on a timeline:
- Scenario A is the current situation for WEPOS. It was released on 5/24/2005. It will be in mainstream support until 7/13/2010 and it will be in extended support until 7/14/2015.
- Scenario B assumes that WEPOS successor comes in 2009. In this case, WEPOS will follow the support rule B mentioned above. WEPOS would be in mainstream support until its successor comes and for 2 years after that.
The Support Policy states that Microsoft provides support at the Service Pack Level. Let's see exactly what this means:
As part of the effort to continually improve Microsoft software, updates and fixes are created and released for recognized issues. Regularly, many of these fixes are combined into a single package (called a service pack) that is made available for installation. Both the Mainstream Support and Extended Support phases require the product's supported service pack be installed to continue to receive support (including security updates). Service packs are cumulative, meaning that each new service pack contains all the fixes that are included with previous service packs and any new fixes. This is done so that you do not have to install an earlier version of a service pack before you install the latest version. A Security Rollup Package (SRP) provides a cumulative rollup of security updates that have been offered since the last SRP.
When a service pack is released, Microsoft will provide 12 months of support for the previous service pack. The support may be extended to 24 months for those service packs when Microsoft believes customers will need additional time for testing and deployment. This is often the case for OS Service Packs such as Windows XPe Service Packs. Microsoft will announce support timelines for a previous service pack when the new service pack is released. When support for a product ends, support of the service packs for that product will also end.
The product's support lifecycle supersedes the service pack support policy. This means that if a SP were to be released 6 months before the end of the support lifecycle policy, the previous SP would not be supported for 12 months. The lifecycle policy date trumps the service pack date and the entire support would end in 6 months.
But what does this service pack policy mean for WEPOS?
Well, WEPOS doesn't have a Service Pack and the main branch is currently supported. If Microsoft released a Service Pack to WEPOS, mainstream support for the original branch would continue until the lesser of two things:
2 years after the WEPOS successor is released
- At least 12 months after the new SP, if it were to be released
In this situation we see that the support for Windows XP Embedded SP1 ends 2 years after the release of the SP2. (Or to be exact, 2 years + until the second Tuesday of the following fiscal quarter.). It is in mainstream support because during that time, XPe, as a product under the MS Support Policy was in mainstream support. Given the assumption that there are no Service Pack after SP2, after SP1 retires, XPe is solely supported on SP2.
Let's take a look at what it looks like on a timeline:
In this example, we are assuming that the WEPOS successor product is being released in 2009 and that there is one more service pack released in August 2008. We see that the support for the main branch of WEPOS ends 12 month after the release of the service pack. It will likely be supported for another 12 months until 8/1/2010. WEPOS SP would be in mainstream support until 2011, two years after the release of the WEPOS successor. It would then move to extended support until 2016.
WEPOS is in mainstream support until 7/13/2010 and will be in extended support until 7/14/2015. These dates may change depending on the release date of a potential WEPOS successor.