Posey's Tips & Tricks
Thanks to Office 365, Office 2016 Users To Get Less Features
Microsoft has recently announced that customers who purchased standalone copies of Office 2016 will lose access to Skype for Business and OneDrive for Business once mainstream support for Office 2016 expires in 2020. This move is presumably an attempt to persuade customers into signing up for Office 365. From a business standpoint, I'm sure that Microsoft would greatly prefer that its customers use Office 365 rather than a standalone version of Office because Office 365 is subscription based and creates a recurring revenue stream for the company.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about Microsoft's decision. On one hand, I can accept the idea that it is perfectly normal for aging software to lose functionality over time. I have boxes full of software from the '80s and '90s in storage. Although I have occasionally experimented with running some of this software on virtual machines, I really can't use the software any more because most of it simply does not work with modern hardware. In that regard, I don't have a problem with Microsoft disconnecting its cloud services from software that is no longer supported.
What I do have a problem with is the idea that Microsoft is not waiting for Office 2016 to be completely unsupported. Although Microsoft is not cutting off access to OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business until after mainstream support ends for Office 2016 customers, Office 2016 customers still have the option of purchasing extended support.
The way that I see it, access to OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business were listed among the benefits of purchasing Office 2016. In fact, it's possible that for some, these might have been the features that enticed them to pick Office 2016 over some other productivity suite. Because access to Skype for Business and OneDrive for Business were sold as product features, they should remain available to Office 2016 customers for as long as the product is officially supported. Although Microsoft is continuing to honor its commitment to provide Skype for Business and OneDrive for Business access to Office 2016 customers through the end of mainstream support in 2020, the company will continue to provide extended support through 2025. Customers who are receiving extended support for Office 2016 should continue to receive all of the benefits that were promised to them at the time of purchase, because technically the software is still being officially supported at that point.
So what impact will Microsoft's decision have on its customers? Well, we won't really know for a few years, but I can take a guess.
As their names imply, OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business were designed for use in business environments. There are, however, consumer-oriented alternatives. Windows 10 actually includes Skype and OneDrive, just not the business versions.
I have absolutely no statistics to back this up, but based on my own observations, I am guessing that relatively few Office 2016 customers are actually using OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business. Sure, small business customers may be using these capabilities, and there are probably also some power users who are using the services, but I am guessing that the majority of Office 2016 customers are probably using alternatives. For example, I know lots of people who use video chat apps such as Messenger or Hangouts rather than using Skype. Likewise, almost everyone that I know uses Google Drive as an alternative to OneDrive. In other words, even though I do not completely agree with Microsoft's decision, I think that the decision will probably impact a relatively small percentage of Microsoft's customers.
So what about those Office 2016 customers who are using Skype for Business or OneDrive for Business? Those customers will unfortunately have two choices. They can either subscribe to Office 365, or they can download their OneDrive content and adopt a competing platform.
There is one other possibility, although it seems somewhat unlikely. I'm sure that Microsoft is already hard at work on the next version of Office. If Microsoft chooses to offer a standalone version of Office v.next (which it remains to be seen whether or not a standalone version will be available), then there is a slim chance that Office customers may be able to regain lost functionality by upgrading.
Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.