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Microsoft Alters and Extends Windows and Office Servicing

Microsoft announced altered Windows and Office 365 ProPlus servicing on Thursday with the aim of giving organizations more time to carry out upgrades.

The announcement by Jared Spataro, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Office and Windows Marketing, was nuanced, with lots of implications for IT shops. However, it perhaps was somewhat encouraging for organizations that have endured so many Windows-as-a-Service and Office support shifts in the past.

Extended Office 365 ProPlus Support
For instance, the announcement signaled a marked retrenchment from Microsoft's firm declaration of truncated Office 365 ProPlus support for users of the Windows 10 long-term servicing channel (LTSC), Windows Server 2016 and older, and Windows 8.1 and older systems, as Microsoft had announced back in February. Office 365 ProPlus is the suite of Office applications that's sold with Office 365 subscriptions.

Office 365 ProPlus support on those systems was supposed to end on Jan. 14, 2020. Here are Microsoft's revised support dates for Office 365 ProPlus, as announced Thursday by Spataro:

  • Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported on Windows 8.1 through January 2023, which is the end of support date for Windows 8.1.
  • Office 365 ProPlus will also continue to be supported on Windows Server 2016 until October 2025.

The end-of-support date for Windows Server 2016 will occur on Jan. 11, 2027, so Microsoft isn't aligning the Windows Server end-of-support date with the end-of-support date for Office 365 ProPlus. End of support means that no further security updates will arrive for the product, so it's an important milestone for IT pros to observe.

Spataro's announcement didn't mention support details about the perpetual-license Office 2019 product, which is expected to get released sometime this year. Perpetual-license Office products, unlike Office 365 ProPlus suites, don't get frequent updates from Microsoft. However, back in February, Microsoft had indicated that Office 2019 support would be truncated by about three years (that is, it'll be supported for just seven years instead of having the traditional 10 years of support). It'll also only run on Windows 10. Apparently, there's no change on that front, based on Spataro's announcement.

Office 365 Services Connections
Microsoft had also specified in April 2017 that only Office 2019 or Office 365 ProPlus clients in the "mainstream" support phase (the first five years) would be able to connect to Office 365 services, such as connecting with OneDrive, Outlook and Skype for Business applications. Users of other perpetual-license Office suites, like Office 2016, would be out of luck under this support policy, and would lose connections to Office 365 services on Oct. 13, 2020, Microsoft had indicated back then.

Microsoft is now giving Office 2016 users a three-year extension from that date, according to the announcement by Spataro.

"To give you more time to transition fully to the cloud, we are now modifying that policy and will continue to support Office 2016 connections with the Office 365 services through October 2023," he wrote.

Windows 7 Extended Security Updates
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 users are supported until Jan. 14, 2020. However, based on Microsoft's Thursday announcement, some organizations will be getting an option to continue to get support for running Office 365 ProPlus until January 2023 if they use a new Windows 7 Extended Security Updates program that Spataro just announced, although the program may not be available yet.

The Windows 7 Extended Security Updates program pushes out Windows 7 SP1 support by three years, which implies that security updates will continue to get released for the operating system. However, the program will come at a cost. It'll be sold on a "per-device basis and the price will increase each year," Microsoft's announcement indicated, without specifying details.

The program will just be available to users of the Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise editions that have volume licensing agreements (which require having five or more users or devices). Microsoft will offer discounts to organizations that also have Software Assurance coverage. Software Assurance is an annuity offering that ensures upgrades to the next software release within the term period.

Further details about the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates program weren't provided. Microsoft's announcement had suggested that the company will share more information at its Ignite event later this month.

Back in July, Microsoft had announced a similar-sounding "Extended Security Updates" program for Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, although Software Assurance is required for the servers covered under this program. This Extended Security Updates program doesn't incur costs for three additional years of patch support if the workloads are moved to Azure virtual machines. However, if organizations keep their workloads on-premises, then Microsoft charges "75% of the full license cost annually" to get the Extended Security Updates support.

Windows 10 Extended Servicing
Microsoft's Thursday announcement basically carved out another Windows 10 option for managing updates. In this case, Microsoft is offering a 30-month (2.5-year) support period between Windows 10 updates, which will come into effect sometime this month. However, the 30-month support period only applies to users of supported Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions, and it's only available when they follow the September channel update model. Microsoft's Windows-as-a-Service model for Windows 10 has biannual updates, called "channel" releases, which typically occur in March and September and entail a new OS version number.

Organizations using the Windows 10 March OS updates will still have just 18 months of support for that OS version until they must upgrade the OS, or risk not getting future security updates. Microsoft will segment its March channel releases in this way starting with the Windows 10 version 1903 release, which likely means that this option will start being available in March 2019.

Nothing changes for Windows 10 Pro or Home edition users and Office 365 ProPlus users, who continue to get 18 months of support for a given OS version, no matter whether the OS update had arrived in March or September.

Microsoft summarized these changes in the following table:

Microsoft's revised support for Windows 10, starting in September 2018. (Source: Sept. 6, 2018 Microsoft announcement by Jared Spataro.)

Microsoft made this change -- 30 months of support for September channel followers and 18 months of support for March channel followers -- to add "more time and flexibility" for organizations, according to Spataro. However, like all such Windows-as-a-Service pronouncements, it's bound to perplex IT pros, who likely are still reeling from Microsoft's last Windows 10 and Office pronouncements.

About the Author

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

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