Microsoft announces a new Office for offline fans, slashes support, hikes the price

Office 2021 is on the way and 'the cloud is where we invest'


Microsoft has announced plans for its lucrative Office product line, with Office 2021 and a Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version that halves the support given to editions from years past.

The company is keen that users leap aboard the update train and ditch perpetual licensing in favour of subscriptions. Back in 2019 it launched a campaign to persuade punters that Office 2019 was a bit of a dog compared to the mighty Office 365.

However, some holdouts have stuck with their non-cloudy options and so for those there is the Microsoft Office LTSC edition (due to arrive in the second half of this year), which will plod along offline for months or years as needed.

Although not too many years. Under the guise of lumping Office LTSC in with Windows LTSC in Microsoft's Fixed Lifecycle Policy, support will only last for five years. In comparison, Office 2019 support started in 2018 and extended support will end in 2025. Going back further, users enjoyed just over 10 years of support for Office 2010 if they kept their service packs up to date.

The Register asked Microsoft if there would be a way to extend support beyond five years, but the Windows giant has yet to reply.

Cutting things down to five years may well raise an eyebrow or two among corporate customers pondering their next update.

Microsoft expects customers who opt for Office LTSC to use it only in specific situations, such as regulated environments where devices cannot be connected or accept updates. "The good news," it said, "is that you can deploy both Office LTSC and the Microsoft 365 version of Office with the same deployment tools."

Yay.

While the duration of support is being cut, the price will be going up by 10 per cent for the Professional Plus and Standard versions as well as individual apps. Only a "subset" of the features found in Microsoft 365 will also show up, although toys such as Excel's XLOOKUP and dark mode support will be present.

Not in the box will be the Skype for Business client app, which must be downloaded separately. Or maybe you could just ditch that whole pesky offline thing and sign up for Teams instead? More information on Project and Visio (as well as other office products) will follow "in the coming months."

There will also be an Office 2021 for personal and small business users later this year, however, the price for that is not set to change.

Jared Spataro, corporate veep for Microsoft 365, confirmed that there would be at least one more release of Office LTSC in the future but, while acknowledging that some customers require a "locked-in-time" version, he highlighted the direction of travel: "The cloud is where we invest, where we innovate." ®


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