If you've refrained from buying a Surface tablet due to fears it would disappear like The Kin, then it may now be time to reconsider. It appears Surface RT tablet owners will receive four and a half years of "mainstream" support from Microsoft -- or at least that's what the company indicates in its recently updated hardware support policy terms.

Although nearly five years of support is in-line with Microsoft's typical Windows lifecycle guidelines, the policy also takes it one step further: those five years include the device itself -- yep, the hardware too. This is an unusual amount of time for gadget maker support since products so frequently launch, disappear and change. By comparison, Apple's original iPad was dropped from its iOS release schedule merely 2.5 years after being launched.

Although Surface owners are slated to receive a long period of support, don't confuse the word "support" for "warranty". Surface RT tablets come standard with a one-year warranty. "Support" here merely translates to software/firmware updates and a ready supply of technical assistance, services and parts. Longer warranties can be purchased though, like Microsoft Complete which promises two-years of coverage and protection from accidental damage for $99.

Microsoft's policy states that hardware repairs, replacements and parts will be available during its support lifecycle, but owners outside of their warranty periods will be subject to fees and charges for such repairs. This is no surprise, of course, but the important thing here is Microsoft is doubling down on Surface: it is committing itself to support the product for more than four years. This should be welcome news for anyone afraid of Surface turning out to be a fly-by-night experiment.

Despite Surface RT's newfound confidence, Surface Pro remains a mystery; however, we can be relatively certain that the Pro version will receive the same treatment, if not better -- Microsoft's business software receives an extra five years of support, typically. It'll be interesting to see if this translates to Surface as well.

While one-year warranties are nothing short of industry-standard in the U.S, some have noted that Microsoft's policy might land itself into more trouble with EU regulators. Many European countries require manufacturers to offer warranty periods in excess of a single year -- something that Microsoft doesn't seem to be doing at the moment.