Service packs are not a thing of the past for Microsoft Office

Service packs are not a thing of the past for Microsoft Office

Summary: Microsoft Office 2010 Service Pack 2 is in private beta. Exchange 2010 Service Pack 3 just arrived this week.The Office team is not moving away from the service-pack model the way that Windows is.


Microsoft is eliminating service packs for Windows client and Windows Server, going forward -- replacing these updates with more rapidly delivered, incremental Windows releases, starting with "Blue." But the same isn't true for the Office division.


For the time being, at least, the Office client and server teams are continuing to roll out service packs for existing versions of Microsoft's wares. (The Office 365 team, for its part, is continuing to roll out updates to its Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online services quarterly or even more frequently.)

Select testers were invited in mid-January 2013 to join a private test of a beta of Office 2010 Service Pack (SP) 2. (I saw a copy of the invitation.) When I asked Microsoft what would be included in Office 2010 SP2 and when it would be generally available, I received the following, generic statement from a spokesperson:

"This service pack beta includes previously unreleased fixes that were made specifically for this service pack. In addition to general product fixes, these fixes include improvements in stability, performance, and security. The service pack beta also includes all the public updates and cumulative updates (hotfixes) that have been released since Service Pack 1."

Why is the Office team sticking with service packs? The same spokesperson didn't have much to say, beyond this statement:

“We will continue to deliver traditional (on-premises) client and server releases at intervals that meet our customers’ needs.”

Microsoft delivered earlier this week Service Pack 3 for Exchange 2010. Exchange 2010 SP3 provides support for Windows Server 2012, Internet Explorer 10 and other customer-requested fixes. SP3 is required for users who want to enable their Exchange 2010 servers to coexist with Exchange 2013 Cumulative Update (CU) 1.

Exchange Server 2013 CU1 -- due out later this calendar quarter -- is the first of the CUs Microsoft is introducing as part of its new servicing model for Exchange, starting with the Server 2013 release. 

In a February 8 post to the Exchange Team Blog, Microsoft officials detailed plans for Exchange 2013's new servicing model. With cumulative updates, the Exchange Server 2013 team will be:

  • Decoupling security fixes from updates
  • Switching from rollups to cumulative updates. CUs are full product releases 
  • Releasing cumulative updates (CUs) regularly (in Exchange's case, quarterly) so customers can anticipate when the next round of fixes are coming 
  • Keeping server and service versions of Exchange more closely aligned for better hybrid cloud/on-premises support

Exchange Server 2013 customers will be able to count on the fact that the same code they're getting in CUs already has been deployed in Exchange Online and has been tested at scale, a company spokesperson explained. CUs will be published on the Microsoft Download Center. Security updates for a CU will be made available on Microsoft Update and the Microsoft Download Center, according to officials.

This new servicing model only applies to Exchange 2013. The old rollup-focused servicing model applies for older versions of Exchange, including 2007 and 2010.

In a Q&A about Exchange 2013's new servicing model, Microsoft officials noted that "(s)imilar to previous releases, it is anticipated that periodic Service Pack updates may be provided."

What does the continued existence of service packs mean, regarding Microsoft's plans (if any) to release more frequent versions of Office clients and servers in the same way Microsoft is expected do with Windows, Windows Server and Windows Phone? Right now, I'm not sure. I'd expect there might be a Blue equivalent of Office coming later this year or early next, but so far haven't been able to confirm that fact.

Any Office users -- client and/or server -- care if Microsoft continues to release service packs for on-premises versions of Office? Or would you rather see the Office team do what Windows is doing and deliver more frequent, incremental refreshes of Office client and server apps?

Topics: IT Policies, Microsoft, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Service packs probably still exist for all old versions of Microsoft Produc

    They will probably release another service pack for windows 7. This does not mean they will not release an Office "Blue" this year.
  • Post SP1 updates are PITA to download

    If you have a reasonably fast connection, but imagine doing a refresh of your system and you only have Windows 7 RTM and Office 2010 media, you might spend some time downloading updates. Microsoft should have a special bundle option that allows you download an updated copy of Windows and Office together along with MSE, like a deployment image, only consumer friendly. So for example, Windows 8 Pro with Office 365 Home Premium (includes Windows Essentials 2012) update February 2012. Create Bootable USB thumb drive with it and you can just load the image on your computer and you are back in business.

    They could update the image quarterly.
    • Or just a rolled up patch

      With every patch included, download, install, reboot, finished, not go through the cycle 20 or 30 times, until everything is installed.

      Windows 7 is certainly better than XP was, but MS still have a way to go.
      • This is how my option would work

        Say you want to reinstall Windows 8 and Office all the other Microsoft apps you have. Microsoft should work with third parties to get in on this, so Adobe, Autodesk, Intuit etc.

        When you go to Microsoft Update page, you simply do the following:

        Which edition of Windows 8 do you have a license for?
        1. Windows 8
        2. Windows 8 Pro

        Which version edition of Microsoft Office do you have a license for?
        1. Office 2010 H&S
        2. Office 2010 H&B
        3. Office 2010 Pro
        4. Office 365 HP


        This Microsoft Software Updater Pack includes the following bundles, you can opt out if you wish:
        * Internet Explorer 11
        * Microsoft Security Essentials 5.0
        * Windows Live Essentials

        Click I agree and start downloading. Please have a thumb drive ready with at least 8 GBs of free space. We'll do the rest. When you are ready, insert the thumb drive, restart your computer and boot from the thumb drive.
  • Word 2010

    is still extremely buggy, both 32 and 64. Weird font appearance change of random parts of text persists.
  • Microsoft Is Killing Office

    I suppose you've heard that new retail licences for Office can only ever be installed on one machine? That means if you upgrade machines, you have to buy another copy of Office!

    This kind of stupidity is just going to drive more people to LibreOffice...
    • Not True

      First Office was always this way, unless you bought a Student copy or Volume License. Second, they have options now like the yearly version that can be installed on up to 5 machines. So where did you get your information from?
      • Re: Not True

        Actually, you're wrong. Traditionally Office licensing included an important but subtle clause that allowed the primary user of an Office license to install an additional copy on a "mobile computer" (which of course always referred to laptops then). I believe that was changed a bit with Office 2007, but it was eliminated entirely with Office 2010. Office 2007 also introduced the 3-PC "Home and Student" edition, which Office 2010 carried forward. All of this was without having to pay a subscription fee--instead, a one-time, up-front purchase cost.

        All that said, 2013 eliminates being able to buy a retail copy--not rent--and use that copy on more than one machine. I know I certainly won't be shelling out any cash to Microsoft to rent software, and I've already cautioned several people who took advantage of the Office 2010 Home and Student edition not to upgrade unless they feel like being a subscriber or buying multiple copies.

        I too see LibreOffice getting more users out of this.
  • Office 2013 Home & Business Is A Nightmare

    If you care anything at all about customizing the installation, as you have been able to do since Office Version 1, as I found out the hard way over a period of about 3 weeks. I was asking everybody from MS Office Tech Support to the MS Community Blog to Dell Software Support and nobody seemed to know how to lay hands on either a downloadable image or a disc with the MSI file on it. I ended-up buying a so-called "backup disc" from Microsoft and even it came with the accursed "Click-To-Run" installer which now makes it an "all or nothing" proposition; don't want OneNote, for example? Too bad! You've got it and everything else that MS deems you should have, with no chance to fine-tune it to your own individual needs or specifications. Even after it's installed the only options you have are to "repair" it; no chance for customization "ex post facto" either. It wasn't until I ran across this recent Ed Bott article that the awful truth was finally brought to light. It's Microsoft's own version of a "cramdown", only this time it involves our throats...