Microsoft to limit Office 2003 support

Shifts the popular suite to extended support plan on April 14

Microsoft Corp. has announced that it will drop mainstream support for Office 2003 on April 14, the same day it starts to retire Windows XP.

Office 2003, which was last updated in September 2007 with Service Pack 3 (SP3), will leave mainstream support in less than two weeks, and enter extended support. Typically, Microsoft keeps a product in the former for five years, then shifts it into the latter for another five.

Microsoft launched Office 2003 in November of that year.

According to Microsoft's standard policies, mainstream support delivers free fixes -- for security patches and other bug fixes -- to everyone. During extended support, however, nonsecurity hot fixes are provided only to companies that have signed support contracts with Microsoft.

The suite is the second major Microsoft product slated to enter semiretirement in less than two weeks. Also on April 14, Microsoft will shift Windows XP, the company's most successful operating system, into extended support.

Late Thursday, Microsoft warned that hackers have been exploiting a critical unpatched bug in PowerPoint 2003, the presentation maker part of every edition of Office 2003. The company has not set a timetable for releasing a patch for the vulnerability, however.

Microsoft will continue to offer security updates to all owners of Office 2003 during the extended support phase. It will also regularly refresh the junk-mail definitions for Outlook, the e-mail client included with the suite.

Office 2003's extended support ends April 8, 2014.

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Gregg Keizer

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