Microsoft to retire Mac Office 2004 in six months

Company supports Mac versions only half as long as Windows editions

Microsoft will drop Office 2004 for Mac from its support list in six months, the company confirmed Tuesday.

The application suite will be retired in October, five years and three months after it was launched, Microsoft said on a product lifecycle page. At that time, Microsoft will stop providing updates and patches, including security fixes, for the suite.

"In line with Microsoft's standard Support Lifecycle policy, Office 2004 for Mac Mainstream Support will be retired October 13, 2009," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail reply to questions. "The Macintosh Business Unit is continuing to work on updates for Office 2008 for Mac and is hard at work on the next version of Office for Mac."

Because Microsoft labels Mac Office a "consumer" product, it supports the software for half as long as it does the Windows editions. Office for Mac 2004 receives what Microsoft calls "mainstream support," which generally runs five years, but is ineligible for the additional five years of "extended support," a phase that includes security updates but provides other fixes only to companies that have purchased support plans.

"Microsoft will offer Mainstream Support for either a minimum of 5 years from the date of a product's general availability, or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer," a company FAQ states. "Extended Support is not offered for Consumer, Hardware, and Multimedia products."

Microsoft also considers Office 2008 for Mac a consumer product, and so will end support for that suite on April 9, 2013.

In comparison, Windows users running Office, even the least-expensive Home and Student edition, receive 10 years of support, with security updates provided during the entire decade. Office 2007, for example, will be supported until April 2017, while Office 2003, which left mainstream support last week, will be supported with security patches until April 2014, a year after Office 2008 for Mac is retired.

Microsoft last updated Office 2004 on April 14 when it patched two vulnerabilities in Excel that had already been used by attackers against Windows-based machines.

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