Microsoft is currently providing support for three client based Windows operating systems. Windows XP, which was first released in 2001 by the company, is in the extended support phase which will end on April 8, 2014. Windows Vista, which is entering the extended support phase today on April 10, 2012, and Windows 7, which is still in its mainstream support phase.
Today's deadline covers all 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, including Vista Home Premium, Business and Ultimate. The extended support phase extends the operating system's life cycle to April 11, 2017 after which support for the OS will end completely.
Microsoft initially had plans to provide extended support for Vista Home Premium, Vista Business and Vista Enterprise only, and not for other product editions. The company in February 2012 decided to provide extended support for all Vista versions.
The extended support phase limits the support that Microsoft provides for the operating system. Microsoft will still create and distribute security patches for all versions of Windows Vista during that phase, while hotfixes, non-security related updates or patches are subject to a fee from that time on.
Service Packs do not extend the mainstream or extended support phase beyond the dates.
The beginning of the extended support phase furthermore means that Microsoft will no longer accept warranty claims, or design changes and feature requests.
Companies that track the market share of operating system list Windows Vista's market share between 8%-9%. The fact that both Windows XP, the operating system's predecessor, and Windows 7, the system's successor, are listed at around 40% each highlight the poor reception and acceptance that Vista received.
Windows Vista users have several options on how to cope with the new situation. They can sit tight and hold on to the operating system for the next five years, as Microsoft continues to provide security patches for the operating system in that time.
Vista Home Premium, Business and Ultimate users can alternatively upgrade to Windows 7, or wait until Microsoft releases its new operating system Windows 8 at the end of the year. The upgrade decision should boil down to the "liking" of Windows 8's new Metro user interface, as both operating systems have similar hardware requirements.
Windows 7 will enter the extended support phase on January 13, 2015, and end of support on January 14, 2020. That's only three years after support for Vista ends.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.