For those consumers who like getting the whole picture for a product before making any major purchase, the decision to buy a Microsoft Surface just became a little more complicated.
Microsoft recently released the supportability timeline for the new tablet, and seeming to keep in line with the confusion around Windows RT and Windows 8, the future is not totally clear.
The Mainstream Support End Date for the Surface will be April 11, 2017. This is less than the usual five years that Microsoft allows for product support.
What Makes This Different?
Well, Redmond has qualified the product as a hardware/software combination. As a result, it falls outside the streamlined set of rules for support that are established for just a core software product such as, for example, Windows 7.
This means that the hardware component of the Surface tablet is covered by mainstream support until April 2017. The software component of the Surface tablet, Windows RT, has the usual five year end date for mainstream support. Along those lines, Microsoft’s software support is normally extended another half-decade after mainstream support ends.
ZDNet has taken a look at the FAQ that was published by Microsoft to clarify things:
“Hardware repairs or replacements and parts are available throughout the support life cycle. Services are free for products under warranty and available for a fee for products out of warranty. … Updates are available for the software/firmware and OS that is embedded into the hardware (except for Surface devices, which is covered by the support life cycle policy for the Operating System on the device).”
“For Surface devices, any Surface software installed, embedded or downloaded on the device is subject to the software life cycle support policy for that software (unlike other HW devices such as Xbox). … The hardware support life cycle policy applies only to the Surface hardware (and as stated above not the Surface software). For Surface devices, that policy affects only the tablet device and hardware based accessories (and for example not to soft goods accessories such as cases).”
Microsoft’s support structure for the Surface tablet is somewhat more vague but not excessively generous, when taking into account that other hardware manufacturers, such as Dell, will soon be shipping their own wares with Windows RT as the operating system. What sort of structure will fall into place then, when the hardware for Redmond’s device co-classified as ‘hardware’ is not shipped by Microsoft?
To participate fully in this discussion, however, one must take a look at the overall supportability structure for other tablets on the market. The original iPad, released 2010, is not available for the upgrade to iOS 6, and that difference in time is fully less than three years from Apple. As a Kindle Fire owner, I can honestly say that I do not have any idea about any sort of supportability matrix, which part of the product is officially supported until when, especially since it was released with an earlier version of the Android OS.
That raises a further question, about the disposability of technology, doesn’t it? As consumers, are we expected to drop $500 every other year or so just to maintain support, even if the current tech is meeting all of our needs?