Product Lifecycle: What is it? What does it mean to me? (or… “Gina, are your eyes okay?”)

What it is:

Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy is the Microsoft standard for product support availability throughout a product’s life. Quoting the Lifecycle policy page: “By understanding the product support available, customers are better able to maximize the management of their IT investments and strategically plan for a successful IT future.” This is true for OEMs supporting embedded devices as well.

Blog-worthy Embedded Windows Dates:

The recent releases of Windows Embedded Standard 2009 as the follow-on product to Windows XP Embedded, and Service Pack 3 for Windows XP Embedded, have initiated some support lifecycle updates that I thought would be of interest, and might become more meaningful with additional explanation.

  • 1/11/2011            Windows XP Embedded SP2 releases (SP2, FP2007, UPR1) Retire, they no longer receive Security updates/Hotfix-DCR updates/support
  • 1/11/2011            Windows XP Embedded Product (at supported Service Pack Level) exits Mainstream, enters Extended support phase
  • 1/12/2016            Windows XP Embedded Product Lifecycle ends
  • 1/14/2014            Windows Embedded Standard 2009 Product exits Mainstream, enters Extended support phase
  • 1/8/2019              Windows Embedded Standard 2009 Product Lifecycle ends

You can review the Phases of the Support Lifecycle at the Lifecycle policy page.

Detailed (read: Lengthy) explanation:
The following tables are based on the information found in each product’s Support Lifecycle listing.


In a nutshell Microsoft’s OS product Lifecycle policy is ten years; five years Mainstream support and five years Extended support. A variant to this equation is based on the follow-on product release timing. A product will have five years Mainstream support, or two years Mainstream support following the follow-on product’s General Availability Date, whichever period is longer.

For example, in the case of Embedded Windows, since there wasn’t a follow-on product to Windows XP Embedded when the typical five year Mainstream support period would have ended, it continued in Mainstream support. With the release of Windows Embedded Standard 2009 as the follow-on product to Windows XP Embedded, the two year period of remaining Mainstream support for Windows XP Embedded commenced. When the Windows XP Embedded Mainstream support phase ends, the product will begin five years of Extended support.

A Service Pack is retired two years after the subsequent Service Pack is released, or it retires at the end of the product’s Support Lifecycle, whichever comes first. A non-retired Service Pack will be supported at the product’s current Lifecycle Phase, Mainstream or Extended, regardless of the age of that Service Pack. Learn more about Service Pack Support policy.

Date Calculations:

  • General Availability dates are loosely calculated to be when a new product is available to customers in the channel after the RTM date (about 90 days later), or they reflect the RTM date for Service Pack releases.
  • Retirement dates are generally calculated as the first Patch Tuesday (2nd Tuesday of each month) of the quarter which follows the actual calculated date.

For example, <deep breath> Windows Embedded Standard 2009’s General Availability Date is 12/14/2008. That date begins the two year countdown until Windows XP Embedded exits Mainstream Support and enters Extended Support. So, 12/14/2008 plus two years takes us to 12/14/2010. The following quarter begins January, 2011, and Patch Tuesday is the second Tuesday in January. This brings us to the Windows XP Embedded Mainstream Support Retirement date of 1/11/2011. <exhale> If I lost you, please read it a few more times. J I’ve gone over it a dozen or so times to make sure it is accurate and it makes more sense to me every time.

Okay, I’m going to wrap up – the complex logic has made my eyes cross just a bit, and it’s getting hard to focus on the computer screen. I hope this has provided some useful data, given you a clue as to how the data is determined, and that the scarce amount of levity has made it a bit more palatable.

- Gina

Gina L. Bentley

Standard & Enterprise Devices (SED)

Program Manager for Sustained Engineering and Support

Oh! A couple of few afterthoughts:

  • This blog doesn’t consider Custom Support options available when a Service Pack is retired or a Product Lifecycle Phase ends. If you are interested in those options, please consult with your Microsoft Technical Account Manager, Account Representative, or contact a Sales Rep for more information.
  • The blog also doesn’t address Product Distribution End Dates, a topic about which I know very little (oops, I think the eyes may be twitching a bit now…). Your Microsoft Technical Account Manager or Account Representative is a good resource for this information as well, and you might also find useful information at this Embedded Windows website.
  • Lastly… <and I mean that> Sincere apologies for the length of this post – unfortunately, I couldn’t trim it without de-demystifying the issue.

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