Microsoft will begin offering an extended period of product support to customers in a move to give companies more time to upgrade or overhaul their products without worry of a lapse in support coverage.

The computer software giant currently offers five years of mainstream support and two years of extended support. Beginning June 1, Microsoft will extend product support coverage for five years, or two years after the second version of a particular product has been released, whichever is longer.

According to Microsoft reps, the decision to extend product support came about because of some complications with specific products.

"This is designed so that we never have less than two years for a customer to migrate to the next version," Peter Houston, a senior director at Microsoft said. "With something like SQL Server 2005, the challenge was that without a policy update, mainstream support for SQL Server 2000 might have ended before customers had a chance to migrate."

The extension covers all business and developer products currently under mainstream support and gives companies a little rest between upgrades.

"Products aren't turning over as much as they used to," Peter Pawlak, a senior analyst at Directions of Microsoft Inc. said. "So Microsoft decided they would just have to move up the general support time."

Microsoft's product lifecycle policy had received extensive criticism in October 2002, and was revamped to cover specific products due to "customer revolt," the company said in a press release. The new policy covers all products and seems a better fit for small businesses that can't afford to upgrade or migrate right away.