UPDATE (as of 6th September 2018): In a change of policy by Microsoft, Windows 8.1 (and Windows 7 for organisations who purchase Extended Support Updates), will now be able to support Office 365 Pro Plus until January 2023.
In a blog post today (1st February 2018), Microsoft have announced that Office 2019 will only be supported on regularly updated Windows 10 computers.
Office 2019, the traditional non-subscription version is scheduled for shipping in the second half of 2018, with previews due in the second quarter of 2018.
In their release, they detail:
Office 2019 apps will be supported on:
- Any supported Windows 10 SAC release
- Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2018
- The next LTSC release of Windows Server
A ‘SAC’ release is ‘Semi-Annual Channel’, which gives new releases every 6 months, so although Microsoft have stopped the traditional use of a Windows version to enforce compatibility, they are moving to only support use on Windows 10 installations that are kept up to date.
The current version of Windows 10 on SAC is 1709 because it was built in September 2017. Its successor will be built in March 2018, hence named 1803. If you want to know your version, type winver into your Windows 10 search box or a Command Prompt.
It is an interesting move, considering that Windows 8.1 still has extended support until 2023 and Windows 7 SP1 until 2020.
Office 2019 will also only be available via ‘Click-to-Run’ installations – the mechanism used by Office 365 installations – and an MSI will not be available for deployment (used by network managers to rollout software centrally).
Microsoft suggest that Office 2019 will only come with 5 years mainstream and “approximately” 2 years extended support, ending in 2025, therefore indicating a shift to shorter support policies. The policy for Office 2016 in comparison, is 10 years in total, also ending in 2025.
Other changes include Office 365 ProPlus no longer being supported on Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Server 2016 and any Windows 10 Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release (versions every 2-3 years) from January 14, 2020. Office 365 ProPlus is the SAC version of Office that comes with most Office 365 subscriptions. Those businesses and users on Office 365 will therefore have another deadline to ensure their workstations are updated or replaced during the next couple of years if they want to maintain the most recent versions (one of the key reasons users are moving to the Office 365 model).
It therefore seems clear that the supported option will require users to be using and updating Windows 10. It seems a shame that this news wasn’t available all the time that Microsoft were offering free upgrades to its Windows 10 operating system, otherwise organisations and individuals may have decided to take up the offer as part of their plans, rather than to defer.
However, we wouldn’t be surprised if some further adjustments are made to the suggested support periods, especially with the proposed reduction of Office 2019’s support lifecycle. It seems likely that users may well be more inclined to increasingly make do with what they have unless they can get the newer versions – especially as there is rarely a need to upgrade to the latest version of Office as there was in the early days.
Microsoft are also clearly attempting to make us all refer to our Office programs as “Apps” suggesting:“…Office that includes apps (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, and Skype for Business)“. Notable omissions are OneNote, Access and Publisher. Some suggest that OneNote as part of Office, might be consigned to the same bin as Clippy (the Office Assistant) given its availability for free as an App in the Windows Store now, but Access and Publisher may be moved to more expensive Office bundles or remain on Office 365. Given Microsoft’s recent inclusion of Access into the Office 365 Business Premium product (as opposed to only being available in the more expensive subscription), any separate bundling or end of life announcement would be out of the blue – even though as developers we are well aware of the perpetual rumours of its demise, possibly by those who don’t really understand what a powerful package it can be in the right hands (see https://www.magicitservices.co.uk/access-database-development/)
In another part of the announcement, Microsoft detailed the preview mid 2018 and release late 2018 of Exchange Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2019 and Skype for Business Server 2019.
Microsoft’s “Changes to Office and Windows servicing and support” blog post: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/windowsitpro/2018/02/01/changes-to-office-and-windows-servicing-and-support/
Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) overview: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/get-started/semi-annual-channel-overview