Ultimate gets less support than XP Media Center

By Scott Dunn

My Feb. 21 story reported that Microsoft considers Vista Ultimate, an upgrade from Vista Home Premium and Vista Business, to be a “consumer product,” reducing the company’s support for Ultimate to a maximum of 5 years rather than 10.

What’s confusing to buyers is that Microsoft does give a full 10 years of support to another consumer product: Windows XP Media Center Edition.

Inconsistency plagues Microsoft support policies

As last week’s story revealed, Microsoft has recently imposed severe limits on the number of Vista Ultimate copies that buyers of the company’s Software Assurance program are licensed to install. The Redmond company is now actively discouraging the use of Ultimate in business settings, despite statements on its Web site describing the more-expensive Ultimate version as the product for “those who want to have it all.”

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Because Vista Ultimate is a “consumer” product, the logic goes, it is only entitled to a maximum of 5 years of support, not the 10 years available under the extended support system, according to Microsoft’s Volume Licensing page for Vista Ultimate.

The longer, 10-year period known as “extended support” is typically available for business-oriented products, such as Windows XP Professional, Vista Business, and Vista Enterprise.

In that vein, a reader who wishes to remain anonymous points out an interesting fact:
  • “Your story on Vista Ultimate volume licensing is good and should be promoted more. I would like to point out that in the case of XP Media Center, which is a purely consumer SKU, MS is offering the same support as XP Professional. Why discriminate against Vista?”
This statement is confirmed by Microsoft’s Support Lifecycle page, which shows that all versions of XP Media Center Edition are eligible for 10 years of extended support.

A Microsoft press release from 2002 lumps XP Media Center in with other consumer products.

Ironically, one of the reasons Microsoft cites when labeling Vista Ultimate a consumer product is the inclusion of features like Windows Media Center. It turns out that XP Media Center is getting official support for twice the number of years afforded to the newer, more feature-rich Vista Ultimate.

Microsoft has previously been criticized for promising “Ultimate Extras” that never quite materialized (as I reported most recently in a July 5, 2007, story). Many business users have also pointed out ruefully that effective management of Group Policy has never been included in Ultimate, as reported here on Feb. 21.

With Ultimate limited to only 5 years rather than 10 years of support, Microsoft increasingly seems determined to relegate its Ultimate operating system to second-class status.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-02-28: