Next perpetual version of Office to debut in 2021

Next perpetual version of Office to debut in 2021

As it turns out, Office 2019 wasn't the last perpetual-licensed version of the popular software suite; Microsoft will release a successor in the latter half of next year

Jared Spataro (Microsoft)

Jared Spataro (Microsoft)

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft will create at least one more Office suite with the next perpetual licensed version set to be released for both Windows and macOS in the second half of 2021.

Unveiled via a company blog post - during its annual Ignite conference - Office's perpetual version is the one that a company purchases once with an up-front payment, typically as part of a volume licensing deal, rather than "rented" by paying monthly subscription fees.

A perpetual licence payment provides the rights to run the application suite as long as one wants, even long after Microsoft stops serving security updates if the user is willing to take risks. It can be installed on just one PC or Mac, and so is tied to that device, not to its current user.

The declaration that Office would continue to be sold in perpetual licence form was not unexpected. Two years ago, when Microsoft launched Office 2019, marketing executive Jared Spataro pledged that a successor would be sold, saying, "We're committed to another on-premises release in the future."

However, Spataro did not specify a release timetable.

Just like Office 2019, but more so

Microsoft said nothing about the follow-up to Office 2019 this week however, other than to define its six-month-wide release window.

"We will share additional details around the official names, pricing and availability of all these products later," Microsoft said in its Ignite blog post regarding the next Office and other Office-related software.

Some traits can be inferred from past Microsoft practice, however.

  • Perpetual Office has long been on a three-year release cadence, and a second-half of 2021 launch would maintain that tempo. Microsoft will thus almost certainly name the future suite Office 2022.
  • Microsoft cut short Office 2019's support, telling customers even before it shipped that the suite would receive seven years of updates, not the traditional ten (which its predecessor, Office 2016, did receive). Don't expect Office 2022 to have more than a seven-year support allowance.
  • Office 2022's release next year and the October 2023 end of support for both Office 2016 and Office 2019 means customers will have about 24 months to upgrade from those older bundles if the intention is to stick with perpetual. That may take some serious hustle by less-agile enterprises.
  • Microsoft will inevitably disparage Office 2022, probably within months of its debut, just as it dissed Office 2019 when it compared the perpetual licence to the by-subscription Office 365.
  • Office 365 will continue to be recommended by Microsoft over any kind of perpetual licence, including Office 2022. Computerworld believes that will make Office 2022 even less attractive in comparison, maybe by further restricting support or access to services. At some point, Microsoft will abandon the perpetual licence format; what's unknown is when it will do that.

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