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Surface will get updates for four years, support page says

Microsoft's latest tablet will be looked after until at least 2017, its support page says -- a luxury in the fast-moving tablet world.

Microsoft will support its Surface RT tablet for at least four years, the company's support pages suggest.

That intriguing news comes courtesy of our sister site ZDNet, who've been rifling through Microsoft's Support pages, and will be of interest to anyone who's been pondering whether the Windows 8-powered tablet is a smart long-term buy.

Microsoft's stance on keeping the Surface up-to-date isn't exactly clear. The 'support lifecycle' policy for consumer hardware states that Surface devices are "covered by the support lifecycle policy for the Operating System on the device" -- a sentiment echoed in this FAQ.

The company's Windows RT support policy, however, merely states, "Microsoft will make software updates, including security updates, available for Windows RT," going on to say, "Additional information regarding the Windows RT lifecycle policy will be communicated as available."

So far so mystical, but in an update to its Support page, Microsoft's 'support lifecycle' for the Surface now says its 'mainstream support end date' is 11 April 2017, suggesting that the new tablet will be looked after for at least four and a half years, though curiously the start date is pegged as 24 January 2013.

Microsoft is used to supporting versions of Windows for years, patching and updating bits of software to fix security wobbles or tinker with features, which should mean the Surface RT will see years of fresh updates from the mothership.

It's hardly the most exciting aspect of buying a new tablet, but prolonged support could give the Surface an edge over its Apple and Android rivals. The original iPad -- released in 2010 -- has already stopped getting new versions of iOS, and Android manufacturers are infamous for delaying, cancelling or quietly abandoning software updates.

Of course, there's no telling what kind of updates Microsoft will be bringing to Windows RT. I'd like to see the operating system evolve like Android, rather than settling into the Windows tradition of four years of boring bug fixes before we see anything new and interesting.

The Surface has received lukewarm reviews, with my famed colleague and comrade Andrew Hoyle critical of its clunky desktop mode and modest screen resolution.

Do you know the Surface? What do you think of it? Tell me in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

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