The sun sets on Windows XP, Office 2003 and Windows Server 2003 SP1 – Vista SP1 and XP SP3 will soon be unblocked – Office 2007 SP2 to ship at the end of April – Office “14” is given a name (and will be available in both 32- and 64-bit versions)

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, today is the day that Windows XP and Office 2003 end their mainstream support phase and move onto extended support – it’s security hotfixes only from now on, unless you are prepared to pay. Security updates for Windows XP will continue to be issued via Windows Update until 8 April 2014 (ditto for Office 2003).

Whilst XP has enjoyed a longer period of mainstream support than would otherwise have been the case (due to the time it took for Microsoft to ship its successor – Windows Vista), many organisations have held back on upgrades due to the negative press that Vista has received (which may have been partially warranted at release but is not exactly valid in 2009). Regardless of the perception of Windows Vista, Windows Vista R2 [ahem] Windows 7 is receiving plenty of praise and a release candidate is widely expected to be released within the next few weeks. Those considering an eventual move to Windows 7 could prepare themselves by application testing on the beta – or even using Windows Vista as a limited pilot in preparation (the two operating systems are remarkably similar, for all but those applications that need to work at a very deep level – e.g. anti virus and VPN software).

Meanwhile, reaction to Office 2007’s “ribbon” user interface has been mixed; regardless of the many improvements in Office applications with the 2007 release, many users are still using the same basic word processing features they had in earlier versions (dare I say as far back as Word for Windows 2.0) and so organisations are needing further persuasion to upgrade – for some the business case is only justified through integration with Office server products (such as Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007 R2) although, my personal experience of reverting to Office 2003 for a few weeks whilst my laptop was being repaired was not a happy one… it’s amazing how those “little tweaks” become embedded in your way of working after a while.

As for Windows Server, those organisations still running Windows Server 2003 (including R2) with service pack 1 lose their support today – Windows Server 2003 with service pack 2 will continue to receive mainstream support until 13 July 2010 with extended support ending on 14 July 2015.

On the subject of service packs, now is probably a good time to remind people that the service pack blocking tools for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3 will expire on 28 April 2009 and 19 May 2009 respectively, after which time the updates will be automatically delivered via Windows Update. As for Office updates, Office 2007 service pack 2 is due for release on 28 April 2009 (including support for ODF, PDF and XPS document formats).

Looking ahead to the next release of Microsoft Office, various websites are reporting that Office codenamed “14” has been named as… no surprise here… Office 2010. APC’s David Flynn is citing delays that prevent a tandem launch with Windows 7 but I have no recollection of any announcements by Microsoft for either a joint launch or a 2009 release – and they have not even committed publicly to releasing Windows 7 this year (it’s all pure speculation by journalists, bloggers and other pundits)… how can something slip if it’s not even been formally announced? Meanwhile ARStechnica is concentrating on the availability of both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Office 2010.

The halycon days of wholesale PC refreshes every few years may now be just a distant memory but these changes signal the need for IT departments to seriously consider their options. With Office 2010 expected to include web applications based on a monthly subscription charge, increasingly feasible online services, and desktop virtualisation becoming increasingly viable (in various forms – be that full VDI, a managed virtual desktop running on a traditional PC, or a hybrid solution using something like MED-V), these are interesting times for those given the task of providing a corporate desktop.

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