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Office 2019 Commercial Preview Now Available

The Office 2019 "commercial preview" for Windows 10 is available as of today, according to a Microsoft announcement.

It's available for Win32 (x86) systems. The Office 2019 productivity suite includes Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Project, Publisher, Visio and OneNote client applications, although Microsoft noted earlier that OneNote will be distributed as the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform app, not as the desktop version, which Microsoft plans to stop developing.

The Office 2019 preview will end on Dec. 31, 2018, allowing testing time before actual commercial release, which is scheduled for the second half of this year, according to a Microsoft FAQ document. This preview is not available to consumer users. It's only for "volume license customers," the FAQ indicated.

An Office 2019 on Mac commercial preview also will be coming "in the next few months," the FAQ indicated.

Perpetual-License vs. Cloud
Office 2019 is the "perpetual-license" version of Microsoft's productivity suite, which means it will be a one-time purchase and it won't get future major feature updates like Microsoft's' Office 365 ProPlus product. Office 365 ProPlus, in contrast, is an annual subscription-based, cloud services-connected productivity suite that gets major feature updates twice per year.

Microsoft's FAQ noted that organizations wanting to tap into Microsoft's "intelligent security features" should go with Office 365 ProPlus because perpetual-license versions of Office lack cloud connections.

Update 5/1/18: Microsoft has previously stipulated that perpetual-license Office products outside of mainstream support will lose connections to Office 365 services starting on Oct. 13, 2020, according to an announcement it made last year in April. It means that older perpetual-license Office products, such as Microsoft Office 2016, on that date won't have connections to services such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive and Skype for Business. Microsoft Office 2013 fell out of mainstream support earlier, on April 10, 2018, so it's already lost those connections.

A Microsoft spokesperson on Tuesday clarified how the perpetual-license Microsoft Office 2019 product will be affected with regard to mainstream support and support for Office 365 services. Office 2019 will have a longer mainstream support date than the Office 2016 product, until 2023. At some point, though in 2020, it seems that Office 2016 users will have to switch to Office 2019 if they want to stay connected to Office 365 services. Here's how the spokesperson clarified the matter:

Office 2016 will leave mainstream support in 2020, at which it will enter extended support. Office 2019 leaves mainstream support in 2023. Both Office 2016 and Office 2019 will leave extended support in 2025. There is a 3 year gap where Office 2016 is only in extended support, but Office 2019 is in mainstream support.

OS Support and Installation
The Office 2019 preview is supported on Windows 10 operating systems that follow the semiannual channel update model. It's supported on the Windows 10 Enterprise edition long-term servicing channel update model. It's also supported on the next Windows Server long-term servicing channel.

Office 2019 isn't supported on Windows 7 or Windows 8, although those operating systems will run Office 365 ProPlus.

Installation of Office 2019 will be a little different for IT pros as Microsoft isn't providing .MSI installation files for the clients, although it will provide them for Microsoft Office Server products, the FAQ explained. Instead, organizations are expected to use Microsoft's Click-to-Run technology, which streams the bits onto desktops. It'll stream the monthly security and quality updates, too. The Click-to-Run technology also supports the performing of in-place upgrades from "older MSI-based products," according to an announcement by Jared Spataro, general manager for Office.

Truncated Support
Unlike previous perpetual-license Office products, Office 2019, when commercially released, will have a truncated support model. Organizations are typically used to getting five years of "mainstream support" plus five years of "extended support" in a so-called "5 + 5" support model. However, Office 2019 will have a "5 + 2" support model.

The truncated seven years of support in Office 2019 is an exception to Microsoft's traditional Fixed Lifecycle Support Policy. Microsoft first described that change back in February. The truncated support is necessary to keep the software secure, according to Microsoft's FAQ:

Because older software is difficult to secure, it is inherently less productive. As the pace of change speeds up, it is more imperative than ever to move our software to a more modern cadence. By adopting a model of 5+2 years of support, Office 2019 will help reduce this exposure.

That statement appears to be Microsoft's first explanation for Office 2019's support exception. The seven-year support term "will align with the support period for Microsoft Office 2016," the FAQ noted, but it didn't clarify why that sort of alignment would be meaningful for a newer product.

It sounds like Office 2019 could be the last perpetual-license Office product, but Microsoft's FAQ offered no clue on the matter. Microsoft will evaluate "customer needs and industry trends" before deciding on such releases, it noted.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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