November 26, 2012, 11:00 AM — Microsoft will support its Surface RT tablet with updates, including security patches, until April 2017, or nearly four-and-a-half years after its launch.
The support lifecycle for the Surface with Windows RT tablet is less than half the usual 10 years Microsoft allots its software products -- including Windows 8 -- but is considerably longer than what Apple has given the first-generation iPad, which has already dropped off the Cupertino, Calif. company's list.
ZDNet blogger Ed Bott first reported on Microsoft's publication of the Surface RT's lifecycle.
Microsoft will support the Surface RT only in the "Mainstream" support phase, presumably because it's considered a consumer product. The company typically supports consumer-grade software only during that five-year period; all business software, as well as some titles that are designed for consumers, such as Office Home and Student 2010, receive another five-year stretch, called "Extended" support, for a total of 10 years.
The company usually supports its in-house hardware, such as the July-launched Wedge Touch Mouse, which was touted as an accessory for Windows 8-based tablets and laptops, for five years. Microsoft classified the Surface RT as hardware in its support lifecycle index.
It's not clear why Microsoft decreased the Surface RT's support lifespan by a year from the normal hardware lifecycle: Bott speculated that it may have been because the tablet was "a hardware-software combo, [and] plays by a different set of rules, apparently."
But the four-years-and-change for the Surface RT is twice what Apple granted the original iPad.
iOS 6, which Apple launched in September, does not work on the original iPad.
Assuming Apple hews to that unwritten support plan, it will dump the iPad 2 from its list in mid-2013.
The disparity between the two companies' support policies isn't unusual. Both Microsoft's typical decade of support and its five years for hardware and some consumer products, exceeds the 35-month average support lifespan of OS X, the operating system that powers Apple's Mac personal computers.