New Office 365 Compatibility Changes in 2021
A couple of years ago, the future of IT seemed to be cloud-based subscription services. In adjusting to the trend, Microsoft announced some major changes in 2020. Users would need to have Office 365 ProPlus or upgrade to Office 2019 to connect to Office 365.
Unfortunately, not all of its customers were ready to move their software applications to the cloud. Others want to use the additional features to the traditional software but do not want to keep up with the subscription. These are some factors that saw the company announce the release of an Office update. The new version will not require a Microsoft 365 subscription and is available for Windows and Mac.
The Release of Office 2021
Microsoft has scheduled to release Office 2021 as the year progresses. The arrival date could be any time between now and the end of 2021. Previous releases give an idea of when consumers can expect the release. Both Office 2016 and 2019 arrived in September, each in its respective year.
According to Microsoft’s corporate vice president, Jared Spataro, the company acknowledges that future work relies on the power of the cloud. The cloud is where businesses need to invest, where innovations happen, and where solutions to empower their customers are.
However, it’s also evident that some of Microsoft’s customers need to activate a limited set of locked-in-time scenarios. The new updates are because the company is obligated to help its customers meet this need.
Office 2021 is the solution many of Microsoft’s customers need. It comes in two versions to meet the needs of both professional and personal consumers.
The Commercial Version
The commercial version, also known as the Office Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC), comes with enhanced accessibility features. Microsoft hasn’t divulged all the details of the updated version, but its performance is better across Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. It also incorporates visual improvements like dark mode support across various apps. However, Microsoft will still focus more of its cloud-based features and interface on the Microsoft 365 versions.
The design of the Office 2021 commercial version is ideal for special situations, as opposed to being used by an entire organization. LTSC is a clear indication that many customers are still not ready to move to the cloud. That’s why the company is making efforts to meet customers where they are in specific scenarios. Some companies in the regulated industries where apps and processes can’t move monthly will do well with a locked-in time release.
Microsoft will only support the Office LTSC version for an initial period of five years, instead of the seven that the company had initially indicated. Details about pricing and the additional features for the commercial version will be available later when general availability is almost due.
The support timing for Office LTSC closely aligns with how Windows is supported. The company is also aligning its release schedules for both Windows and Office more closely. By bringing the two versions close together, organizations will deploy and manage them better, says Spataro. A release of the preview of this version will be available in April, with the full release coming later in the year.
Office 2021 for Consumer and Small Businesses Version
Small businesses and consumers have not been left out in this Microsoft update. They will be provided with an Office 2021 version that they can acquire as a one-time purchase. By the end of the second fiscal quarter of 2021, Microsoft 365 had 47.5 million subscribers to the Consumer version. This was an increase from the previous quarter by 2.2 million subscribers. It is a large market for Microsoft and shouldn’t be left out in the upgrades.
Consumers can continue to use some of Microsoft’s 365 apps for free. Students, teachers, or faculty members with a school email address may be eligible for free Office 365 access through Microsoft. They can access Excel, Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, Microsoft Teams, and other classroom tools. All they need to do is enter the school email address on the Get Started with Office 365 for Free page. In many cases, access is instant, thanks to the automated verification process. However, for institutions that require additional verification, eligibility may delay for up to one month.
Graduates who want to continue using Office 365 can do so with a valid school email address. However, they will have to get Office 365 Personal for $12 annually.
Any other consumer is eligible for a one-month free trial to Microsoft 365. This version doesn’t require credit card details, but not canceling before the month is over will see you charged $100 for an annual subscription to Microsoft 365 Family. You can also access several free apps online, including Calendar, Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
Are There Limitations to the Free Version?
If consumers can get all these apps for free in the new version, why pay for Microsoft 365? The reason is that the free app’s functionality is limited. They will only run through your web browser, but you won’t be able to use them if you’re not online. They also have fewer features than the premium Microsoft 365 versions.
However, you can still derive many benefits from the apps. They let you collaborate in real-time and share links to your work, just like it is with G Suite tools. The free versions of these tools will give you the basic functionality you need.
Microsoft’s primary focus is on cloud-based products. However, the company has developed perpetual software-license-based products to serve customers with specific needs. Both the cloud-based and subscription-based products have played a role in driving revenue growth for the company. This is what makes these new developments particularly interesting.
The company recognizes that its products may not be ideal for everyone, and that’s why it creates opportunities to attract customers using the different versions. This also gives consumers a taste of what they can get with the premium versions. If you’d like more information about how you stand to benefit from the Microsoft 365 updates, read more on our blog. Or contact us.
Mike Bowe | Published on May 20, 2021