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Microsoft Spreads FUD on Office Connections to Microsoft 365 Services

Microsoft appears to be deliberately trying to confuse the public on Office 2016 and Office 2019 connections to Microsoft 365 services.

In a July Redmond article, I reported on Microsoft's plans to cut off Microsoft 365 service connections for Office 2016 and Office 2019 users, starting in Oct. 2023. The article reports what Microsoft indicated in July and has been saying for years, but what Microsoft means is that it won't necessarily support those connections for customers, should there be any problems. The connections don't get severed or blocked -- there's just no guarantee from Microsoft that things will work.

This clarification comes from Microsoft, as unearthed by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley, and reported in this ZDNet article.

The Oct. 10, 2023 date really just applies to Office 2019. On that date, Office 2019 will fall out of mainstream support, which means that Microsoft ceases to develop and add new features to it. This loss of this mainstream support may make the Microsoft 365 service connections iffy for the Office 2019 product.

Here's Microsoft's statement to that effect, attributed to a company spokesperson, as given to Foley:

Practically, this means that as we make updates to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and other Microsoft 365 services, we will not be building around the constraints inherent in the older perpetual Office clients that are already out of mainstream support. Customers will not be blocked in connecting, but they may not get the full value out of new investments in our cloud services. Over time, they may run into unexpected issues.

So rather than blocking Microsoft 365 service connections, Microsoft may not fix any connection problems for users of Office 2019 after the Oct. 10, 2023 date.

Office 2016 users are already out of mainstream support (it ended on Oct.13, 2020) and hence already are subject to Microsoft's support whims with regard to Microsoft 365 connections. However, Microsoft failed to make that distinction in its July announcement.

Possibly, Microsoft isn't obligated to address connections with Microsoft 365 services with the two perpetual-license Office products because Microsoft 365 services have a more arbitrarily defined support model under Microsoft's Modern Lifecycle Support policy. The perpetual-license Office products follow the more traditional Fixed Lifecycle Support model of five years of mainstream support followed by five years of extended support, although Microsoft arbitrarily cut Office 2019's total support period from 10 years to just seven years.

In essence, though, Office 2016 and and Office 2019 users may lose functionality before those two product reach their actual end-of-support phases. Such a circumstance appears to be a new phenomenon for Office users and it compromises earlier customer understandings about Microsoft product support. It'll likely serve as a prod for organizations to move more toward Office services and subscriptions to avoid the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about using perpetual-license Office products.

For IT departments that plan around the use Office perpetual-license products, Microsoft's suggestions that there may be Microsoft 365 connection problems after the Oct. 10, 2023 date may be akin to hard-stop end date, as IT pros may have to shift quickly under such circumstances.

Microsoft has publicized that Office 2016 and Office 2019 users would be losing Microsoft 365 service connections before the end of Office product support for many years. Microsoft indicated it in 2017 and again in 2018, and most recently noted it in July, prior to this month's clarification obtained by Foley.

To reiterate, Office 2019 will still have connections to Microsoft 365 services after the Oct. 10, 2023 date, but there could be problems. No Microsoft 365 services cutoff is planned for that 2023 date.

I apologize to readers on the lack of clarity, which I ascribe to Microsoft's communications over the years. For the record, Microsoft has never contacted me to say that my past articles were in error. Microsoft appears to be deliberately spreading confusion while shortening the traditional support period of its perpetual-license Office products in a novel way.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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