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Microsoft extends support for XP Home, XP Media Center

Five-year extension, which has roughly half of mainstream-support features, is offered for first time with consumer products.

Would you like some extra support with that software?

That's what Microsoft is now offering buyers of Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Media Center Edition. The company announced on Wednesday that it is adding five-year customer support for the operating systems, marking the first time that such extended service has been offered with a Microsoft consumer product.

The "extended" support, which kicks in after April 2009, will bring the two products on par with Microsoft's Windows XP Professional for businesses. Microsoft previously reserved its five-year extended support feature to only enterprise-grade products.

Under Microsoft's Support Lifecyle Policy, consumers and businesses both receive "mainstream" support for their products. XP Home Edition and XP Media Center will see mainstream support end in April 2009, which includes paid support, security updates, design changes and feature requests.

Once mainstream support expires, the five-year extended support is due to kick in. Previously, XP Home and XP Media Center consumers would migrate to self-help support for eight years, after their mainstream support ended.

The extended-support level includes roughly half of the eight features included in mainstream support. Those not included are design changes and feature requests, warranty claims, no-charge incident reports and nonsecurity hot-fix support, unless a user purchases an extended agreement within 90 days of the mainstream support expiring.

The phase for additional software support will provide consumers with service until 2014, Microsoft said.

For the software giant, extending its help window is nothing new. Microsoft extended support for Windows 98, Windows 98 SE and Windows ME by two years, with assistance ending last summer.

And although Microsoft is expanding its support for its two consumer XP products, the move comes as it is gearing up to release its Windows Vista operating system to consumers next week. Vista, which is currently available to computer makers to load on their boxes, is expected to ultimately replace XP, though market watchers note that it might take some time.

"Microsoft has listened to customer feedback and realized that providing security patches for Windows XP Professional, and not extending that support to the XP Home and XP Media Center Editions, was not a consistent approach," a company representative said. "Microsoft is currently making the change for Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Media Center Edition only, and (it is) taking additional time to evaluate a permanent policy change that would apply to all consumer operating system versions."