Microsoft Previews Office for Windows and Office 2021 for Mac Perpetual-License Products
Microsoft last week announced that "commercial preview" versions of the new Microsoft Office long-term servicing channel (LTSC) for Windows product and the Office 2021 for Mac product were released.
The so-called commercial preview term is explained in this FAQ document. It means that this preview is not for consumer Office users. It's just for organizational users.
The previews for Office LTSC for Windows and Office 2021 for Mac "will be available from April 22, 2021 thru January 17, 2022," the FAQ indicated. The previews are just intended for testing purposes and shouldn't be used in production environments, Microsoft indicated.
These Office productivity suites include the traditional Excel, PowerPoint and Word applications (plus Visio Pro and Project Pro for Windows users) and will get sold under so-called "perpetual licenses," rather than subscriptions. One characteristic of the perpetual-license model is that organizations pay for the Office product in one lump sum. Perpetual licensees don't get access to the new feature updates that arrive to Office users who pay via recurring Microsoft 365 subscriptions.
Microsoft deems the Office LTSC for Windows and Office 2021 for Mac products as being device-based perpetual-license products designed for use by "commercial and government customers." They should just be used when frequent software updates can't be tolerated by an organization, according to the announcement:
The next perpetual version of Office for commercial customers is built specifically for organizations running regulated devices that cannot accept feature updates for years at a time, process control devices that are not connected to the internet in manufacturing facilities, and specialty systems that must stay locked in time and require a long-term servicing channel.
The perpetual-license Office products can be run without an Internet connection because they lack Microsoft 365 "cloud-connected capabilities like real-time collaboration and intelligent capabilities," the FAQ explained. It's possible to get monthly quality and security updates via a centralized device on-premises, rather than having all devices connect to the Internet.
Truncated Support and Cost Increase
Microsoft's announcement affirmed that the new Office LTSC for Windows and Office 2021 for Mac perpetual-license products, when commercially released, will have just five total years of "mainstream" support, and no "extended support." Those products still follow Microsoft's Fixed Lifecycle Policy in terms of support, but its past 10 years of support will get halved when these new products reach "general availability" commercial release.
Plans to truncate support for the new perpetual-licensed Office products by five years were announced by Microsoft back in February. At that time, Microsoft also indicated that it was planning to increase the price of the new Office LTSC perpetual-license product by 10 percent. Also listed back then as slated for getting 10 percent price hikes were "Office Professional Plus, Office Standard and the individual apps."
The new Office LTSC will only be deployable using Microsoft's Click-to-Run streaming technology. There won't be any MSI or MSIX install files. For Office 2021 for Mac, the Apple Package format gets used.
Office LTSC and Office 2021 for Mac preview users will get a trial version of Microsoft Teams installed by default, the FAQ explained. However, the Office Deployment Tool or Group Policy can be used to exclude the Teams app installation.
The Skype for Business client app is available for Office LTSC preview users, but it's not installed by default. Office 2021 for Mac preview users wanting the Skype for Business app will have to download it and install it.
General Availability Prospects
Microsoft is targeting the general availability commercial release of these Office perpetual-license products for "the second half of 2021," according to the FAQ.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.