Microsoft is to gradually phase out its Windows 2000 Server family. The company has confirmed that as of 1 April 2006, the products will no longer be available.

The retirement announcement comes eight months after the introduction of Windows Server 2003, the successor to Windows 2000 Server, and almost four years after the Windows 2000 Server launch on 17 February, 2000.

Retirement of Windows 2000 Server will be spread out over a two-year period starting on 1 April 2004. From that date, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server will no longer be available through the retail channel or through Microsoft's volume licensing programs.

On 1 November, 2004, Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Windows 2000 Datacenter will be pulled from the direct OEM (original equipment manufacturer) channel, Microsoft said. This means the products will no longer be available from vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co. that have direct license agreements with Microsoft.

A year later, on 1 November, 2005, system builders - smaller, local companies that build servers from the ground up for customers - will stop selling the Windows 2000 Server products, Microsoft said.

Although products will no longer be sold, users in need of Windows 2000 Server disk sets will be able to get those by buying a Windows Server 2003 license and exercising their downgrade rights. Microsoft will have Windows 2000 Server disk sets available until 1 April, 2006, the company said.

The phase-out schedule does not change support plans for Windows Server 2000. Microsoft will end mainstream support on 31 March, 2005 and extended support on 31 March, 2007, the company said.

The retirement schedule for the Windows 2000 Professional desktop product had been announced earlier. OEM and retail availability of that product is scheduled to end on 31 March, 2004. System builders can deliver the product until 31 March, 2005.