The news arrives by way of an update to Microsoft's support lifecycle page (opens in new tab). For the Surface hardware, Microsoft will provide four years of mainstream support, including firmware updates. During this time, hardware repairs or replacements and parts will be made available. Services are free for products under warranty and available for a fee for products out of warranty.
As for Windows RT, the new ARM-based version of Windows 8 on Microsoft's Surface tablet is covered by the typical 5-year operating system support lifecycle policy. That policy also applies to the handful of Windows RT-based PC's supplied by its OEM partners.
"Microsoft will make software updates, including security updates, available for Windows RT. Additional information regarding the Windows RT lifecycle policy will be communicated as available," the company states. "Office Home and Student 2013 RT has the same lifecycle policy as Windows RT."
According to this Microsoft FAQ (opens in new tab), any Surface software installed, embedded or downloaded on the Surface device is subject to the software lifecycle support policy for that software – unlike other hardware devices such as the Xbox 360 console.
"The hardware support lifecycle policy applies only to the Surface hardware (and as stated above not the Surface software). For Surface devices, that policy affects only the tablet device and hardware based accessories (and for example not to soft goods accessories such as cases), the FAQ adds.
Thus, consumers who purchase a Surface RT tablet (opens in new tab) should expect software updates until April 2017 at the very least. Security and platform updates will also include Office Home and Student 2013 software which comes pre-installed on the Windows RT tablets and desktops.
CNET points out that this support schedule is highly generous, as Apple has already killed OS updates for the original iPad which launched back in 2010. Currently, consumers have no idea when the just-launched Google Nexus 10 Android tablet will cease receiving updates, or with any other Android tablet from Google or 3rd-party partners for that matter.