FAQ: How Microsoft has changed Office 2019

Support for the company's hallmark office productivity suite – and how long that support will last – depends on which version you're using. And on which version of Windows you run. Here's how to decipher it all.

Microsoft Office logo [orange background]

Microsoft has changed up Windows 10's support so many times that some IT professionals may need chiropractic care. Support was reduced, then extended, then reduced, then extended again.

But what of Microsoft's other pillar, Office?

Although Office 2019, the one-time-purchase application suite - the version Microsoft doesn't want you to buy - has experienced fewer back-and-forths than Windows 10, Microsoft has made changes. Or kept what you'd expect would have changed.

With that in mind, we tackle the most important questions about how Office 2019 differs from past permutations and where it remains the same.

How long will Microsoft support Office 2019? This hasn't changed from Microsoft's last directive: On Windows, Office 2019 will receive security updates until Oct. 14, 2025, or just over seven years.

Unlike Windows 10 or Office 365 - and the latter's Office ProPlus, the bundle of applications at the core of the subscription - Office 2019 has an end date. But rather than the once-traditional decade of support, split into five years of Mainstream and five years of Extended, Office 2019 cuts the second off after two years, for a grand total of seven.

Microsoft's rationale for shortening support by 30%? "Software that is a decade old or more, and hasn't benefited from this innovation, is difficult to secure and inherently less productive," Microsoft claimed in an FAQ. "As the pace of change accelerates, it has become imperative to move our software to a more modern cadence. By adopting the 5+2-year period, Office 2019 will help reduce this exposure."

Under that supposition, it would be even smarter to reduce support to, say, five years. Or would three be better? How about one?

On macOS, Office 2019 gets the usual-for-the-Mac five years. Expect Office 2019 for Mac to fall off support on or around Oct. 10, 2023. (Mac Office has always been shortchanged like this; for some reason, Microsoft considers the software a consumer product, even versions purporting to apply to business, and so offers just five years of support.)

How long can we run Office 2019 and still get it to connect to Microsoft services, specifically Microsoft-hosted Exchange? Good question.

According to previous Microsoft mandates, perpetual license Office applications will be allowed to access Microsoft-hosted cloud-based services - online Exchange is a terrific example - only through their mainstream support stretch. Office 2019's mainstream support ends Oct. 10, 2023.

Although Microsoft extended the service support deadline for 2019's predecessor - Office 2016 - from October 2020 to that same Oct. 10, 2023, the company did not say whether that's a one-time deal or also applies to Office 2019.

Our advice: Count on connecting to Microsoft's services only until October 2023 using Office 2019

Can Office 2019 run on Windows 7? (We're keeping 7 until it dries up and blows away.) What about Windows 8.1? We have some scattered PCs running that lame duck OS. Ah, no. On both counts.

Office 2019 is supported only on Windows 10 (and then only those Semi-annual Channel (SAC) versions that remain in support), Windows 10 Long-term Servicing Channel (LTSC) 2018 and the 2019 LTSC release of Windows Server.

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are out of luck.

What's up with that? Who knows?

When Microsoft previously said that Office 2016 could not be used to connect to the company's own cloud services after Oct. 13, 2020 - a decision it's since retracted - it rationalized the move by claiming that tying new technologies (Office 2019 in this case) to old technologies (here, Windows 7 or Windows 8.1) resulted in substandard security and unimpressive features.

We don't know if that's the real reason.

However, a clue comes from Office 365 ProPlus, the name Microsoft assigns to the applications - Word, Excel, Outlook and so forth - bundled with an Office 365 subscription. Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported on Windows 7 until the latter's Jan. 14, 2020, retirement; on Windows 8.1, Microsoft recently backed off an early end-of-ProPlus call, and now will keep Office 365 on that shrinking OS running until 8.1's Jan. 10, 2023, support demise.

What's interesting about the ProPlus-good/Office-2019 bad on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 is that ProPlus is, by the nature of its twice-annual upgrading, newer code than Office 2019, and has more features, not fewer, than the perpetual license.

The giveaway, though, came from Microsoft's announcement that it will sell extended support for Windows 7 for up to three years, or until early 2023. Buying this "Extended Security Updates" (ESU) for Windows 7 will also let covered PCs continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.

"This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 ESU will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus," said Jared Spataro, a Microsoft executive who leads marketing for Office and Windows in a Sept. 6 post to a company blog.

Our conclusion: Microsoft is using Office 2019's artificial lack of support on Windows 7 (and to a much lesser extent, Windows 8.1) to drive customers away from perpetual licenses toward Office 365 subscriptions.

The perpetual Office 2016, remember, will be supported until Oct. 14, 2023, so that remains an option for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

We have Macs in the shop. Can we run Office 2019? Of course.

Office Home and Business 2019 for Mac is the business-appropriate perpetual license. (In fact, by the license agreement, it's the only edition with rights to produce work content.) Microsoft has not released the SKU (stock-keeping unit) or revealed the price, saying only that it, and consumer and commercial versions, would debut in the coming weeks.

Any idea what Microsoft will charge for perpetual Office 2019? More than before, we bet.

Microsoft has already announced a 10% price increase for volume license customers, with additional increases of 10% to 30% slated for the CALs (client access licenses) the 2019 applications need to connect to, and access information on, Microsoft's server software.

The last time Microsoft raised prices for Office volume licenses was in 2010, with the debut of Office 2010.

It's not clear whether other editions - the various SKUs sold at retail, for example - will also come with higher prices. Based on past practice, the safe assumption is that they'll go up. That's because Microsoft boosted prices at Office 2013's launch and three years later, when Office 2016 appeared.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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