PC World notes Microsoft will start to retire Windows XP in April by shifting the seven-year old operating system into a more limited support plan. You can find the full details of the extended support over here.
By Microsoft policy, mainstream support delivers free fixes -- for security patches and other bug fixes -- to everyone. During extended support, all users receive all security updates, but non-security hot fixes are provided only to companies that have signed support contracts with Microsoft.
Several Microsoft spokespeople confirmed that Tuesday. "Customers will have access to extended support for paid support, security support updates at no additional cost and paid hotfix support," a company spokeswoman said in an e-mail. Firms must purchase an extended support contract within 90 days of XP's mainstream support retirement in April.
"All security updates are provided through both mainstream and extended support," added Frank Fellows, another Microsoft spokesman.
Although it's not unusual for a version of Windows to be still in widespread use when it moves into extended support, XP is a unique case, said Michael Cherry , an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "This is the first time I can remember that we have a situation where people will be continuing to buy devices with an operating system no longer in mainstream [support]," said Cherry.