The IE team posted a reminder about the upcoming Windows 2000 Support Lifecycle events, and reading through the comments and some follow-up items, it's clear that there's some confusion surrounding support lifecycle dates and what they mean.
I'd like to try to help make it clearer. I've been interested in the Support Lifecycle since it was announced - as a long-time PSS barnacle, I support any initiative that provides clear guidance as to exactly what customers can expect from us - so I'll try to answer any questions that you might have around this Lifecycle info.
As a note, I'm not the right guy to ask about future products or information not already posted on the Lifecycle site, and any advice should be considered informal, subject to change without notice, and in no way legally binding (that is, my employer won't be held accountable for my mistakes, and you shouldn't rely on my advice as being correct for all time).
As of the time of writing, I read the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Supported Service Packs page as follows:
Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 support ends 30 June 2005, so we will not (typically) be producing updates that are designed to be installed on Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 after that date. This means for practical purposes that Windows 2000 SP4 becomes the "low watermark" for updates.
Upon this platform, you have a choice of two supported browsers from Microsoft:
Nothing is going to suddenly drop dead. Windows 2000 will still be around, and still be supported with security hotfixes. By 2010, when Extended Support for Windows 2000 ends, I'll bet people are looking at Windows 2000 in much the same way as they currently look on NT4, but that isn't how it is now. Now, we're 5 years into a 10 year lifecycle. By then, um, we'll be 10 years in. Which makes sense, when you think about it.
So, anything unclear about that? Comment away...
While I was at Microsoft I always described the lifecycle to customers as this function: x +2 where 'x' is the current product. Generally speaking (because I'm sure someone is already searching for links to disprove my mathematical genius) Microsoft will support the current product plus two generations following. Customers generally took that very well.
Glass half full person, eh? It was always N-2 for me :)
The current Lifecycle as documented uses N-1 for the Supported Service Packs system, but I think we were aiming to make the lifecycle more predictable by getting away from being defined by product releases (which may happen at odd times - look at Windows 2000/XP/Longhorn) and into relatively predictable multi-year periods.