WinXP, Office 2003 Evolve, Updates Semi-Retired

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft recently announced that April 14, 2009 will mark the beginning of its "phase out" process for the Office 2003 productivity suite and the Windows XP operating system; two cornerstone programs that will be forced into semiretirement so that more resources can be used towards newer products.

The lifespan of a Microsoft product is dependent on the amount of time and involvement the company allocates when implementing security updates, patches, and similar.

Microsoft Product Life Cycle: Mainstream Support

Office 2003 was released in November 2003 as a successor to Office XP. At the time the product was made available for purchase it also entered the first stage of its lifespan: release with mainstream support.

Office 2003 has now been given over five years of mainstream support, meaning that since its release, Microsoft has continued to deliver free security patches and other bug fixes to all owners.

Additional Extended Support

In just under two weeks, the product looks to begin the second stage of its lifespan: additional extended support. While in extended support, non-security hot fixes are only provided to companies that have signed prearranged support contracts with Microsoft.

Permanent Retirement: No Security Updates

The third and final stage of its lifespan will be permanent retirement, meaning that the suite will no longer be treated for exploits (infections, security holes, etc).

However, recognizing that Office 2003 is the second most-recent Microsoft suite in existence, the company will continue offering security updates to all owners of Office 2003 during the extended support stage (for the time being, at least). As an added bonus, Microsoft has also promised to refresh the junk-mail definitions for Outlook (the email account included with Office 2003) on a regular basis.

Office 2003: Still Targeted After 5 years

While putting a product that is over five years old into semi-retirement might not be of tremendous concern for most people, consider this: hackers have been known to exploit a critical unpatched bug in PowerPoint 2003, the presentation maker for Office 2003, as recently as last Thursday (April 2nd, 2009)!

As it stands, the Office 2003 extended support looks to conclude sometime in April 2014, though most people hope that Microsoft releases a couple of other productivity suites before then.

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