Where are Microsoft's next versions of Office for Windows and Mac?

Where are Microsoft's next versions of Office for Windows and Mac?

Summary: Microsoft execs dropped a few clues and hints this week regarding the company's planned timing for the next versions of Office client and servers for Windows.


It's not just the whereabouts of Microsoft Office for iPad that generates never-ending no comments from Microsoft officials. Microsoft execs also have been keeping mum on when the company plans to field its next on-premises/local versions of Office client and Office servers for Windows systems, as well as Office for Mac.


This week, Microsoft officials did drop a couple of clues that lead me to believe that Office 16, as the next version of Office for Windows clients/servers is codenamed, may arrive before the end of 2014.

In an Office Blogs post on February 17, Office Corporate Vice President Jeffrey Teper spelled out Microsoft's planned Office timeframe in broad-brush terms. "We will continue with our on-premises releases of both SharePoint Server and Exchange Server on our traditional 2-3 year release cadence," Teper said. Given that Given that Microsoft RTM'd SharePoint 2013 and Exchange 2013 on October 12, 2012, that would mean the follow-on versions should be out some time October 2014 to October 2015.

I'm thinking Microsoft is hoping to get Office 16 out toward the beginning of that one-year window. 

One clue: Microsoft Lync execs told me that Microsoft plans to get the Lync-Skype video federation into the next version of Lync Server. They also told me that the release to manufacturing (RTM) of that functionality is approximately six to eight months away, which would put it some time between August and October this year. That said, it's worth noting that Lync may not arrive at the same time as the Office server family, as Lync sits with Skype, not the rest of Office, in the Microsoft org these days.

Another hint: The Microsoft Exchange team announced on February 19 that the company is seeking particpants for its private Technology Adoption Program (TAP) test program for the next version of Exchange Server on-premises.

With Office 15, Microsoft began accepting TAP participants (for SharePoint 2013) in late January 2012. The company ended up fielding the one and only public beta of Office 15 in July 2012 and RTM'd the client and servers in October 2012. If Microsoft follows a similar pace with Office 16, I'd guess we'll see TAP testers named in the next few weeks; a public beta by summer; and RTM this fall. Again -- it's worth noting there are no guarantees that Microsoft won't go faster or slower in developing this next version of Office.

The Office team has a lot going on. Not only is the team working on Office for the iPad -- which I've heard from my sources may be launched before the end of June 2014 -- but it's also building Office 2013 Service Pack 1 (due in "early" 2014); the aforementioned Office 16 client and server apps; and "Gemini," which are the touch-first, Metro-Style/Windows Store versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. It's building some brand new Office apps, like the coming Office Reader and 'Remix' digital storytelling apps. And it's continuing to evolve Office Mobile for Windows Phone, iPhones and Android phones.

The Office team also just rebranded Office Web Apps as Office Online and is continuing to try to add more of the features that are part of "regular"/on-premises versions of these apps to the free, Web-based complements. The team also is adding features on a near-monthly basis to Office 365 and on a regular, though less rapid pace, to Office 365 Home Premium.

There's also expected to be a new version of Office for the Mac in the pipeline, given the last one was Office 2011 for Mac, released in October 2010. Microsoft officials aren't providing any specific guidance as to features/timing for the next Office for Mac beyond the following statement from a spokesperson:

"The team is hard at work on the next version of Office for Mac. There are no details to share on timing, but when it’s available, Office 365 subscribers will automatically get the next Office for Mac at no additional cost.”

As part of Office 365 Home Premium, Microsoft currently enables users to install Office for Windows or Office for Mac on up to a total of five PCs and/or Macs.

Microsoft RTM'd Office 2011 for Mac in September 2010, five months after Office 2010 for Windows RTM'd. If Microsoft were to follow the same path/cadence for the coming version of Office for Mac, one would expect that product to be set to RTM in March/April 2014. However, there have been no reports of any kind of test versions (public or private) for Office next for Mac so far -- and with Office 2011, test versions were circulating five-plus months ahead of RTM.

Anyone have any guesses (educated or otherwise) when we'll start hearing about the next on-premises versions of Office for Windows, Windows Server and  the Mac?


Topics: Enterprise Software, Cloud, Collaboration, 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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  • Better off buying Office than renting it.

    It was my impression that $99/year for Office was a good deal. However, it's not. If the next version of Office every two years, then where is the great value in a $99/year subscription? I know about the 5 PC's, but who actually has 5 PC's? The single mother trying to juggle work, school, and kid? A college student paying his way through college? When Office 2013 came out (last year) you can get that for $140 and the software is yours...pretty much forever. However, for Office 365...you are talking $198 for Office 2013.

    Something does not seem right here.
    • I have 3

      It is really great to have the most recent and same version of Office on all of them. With 3 it is cheaper. Even if you have only 2 it is cheaper when you consider the upgrade cycle. As we transition to touch keeping Office up to date is even more important.
      • I have four...

      • We are NOT going to be transitioning to touch.

        Sorry, but I just have to call you on this: You can push the idea of touch all you'd like, but for any kind of serious content creation at all - beyond emails and text - the keyboard and mouse isn't going away. If you look at the corporate sales of notebooks (which haven't declined), touch and Win 8 is still being overwhelmingly rejected.
    • It's even worse...

      ...given the fact that most people aren't power-users and just don't need a new Office version every two to three years. For creating simple documents or spreadsheets, writing a letter from time to time, etc. you don't need a full blown Office 2013 when Office 2003 or earlier offers all the required features already. It's just the update insanity of these days, the need for always having and using the latest even if you don't use 95% of the available features. If you look at it that way, $99/year is wasted money if you bought a Office license ten years ago and you don't miss anything in it.
      • Not 100% true

        Even in the newer versions features come out that even the average user would use. I know many non-power users that would have loved to be able to sort more than 3 rows at once before office 2007 came out.
        • hmm

          Like what? I can't think of a feature other than vector fonts that is needed for my home use that I didn't already have on my Office for Macintosh in 1990, which consisted of Wine and XL. I suppose, though, I can now do a PowerPoint presentation for my wife.

          Anyway - I just use OpenOffice. LibraOffice is a bit too slow.
          • oh and I should add

            Back then Word and Excel fit nicely on one 1.44meg "superfloppy" and I still had room (about 400k) for all my term papers in a semester!
    • The College Student

      The "college student paying his way through college" can get Office 365 University which give them the license for 2 computers (PC or Mac) for 4 YEARS for $79.99. That's roughly $0.83 per month per computer (even if they only have one computer it works out to a whopping $1.67 per month)

      (And it's really not that unusual for a family to have 5 computers and tablets and VERY common to have at least two which is the point where it's cheaper to go with Office 365 than Office 2013 with your numbers)
      Mike Galos
      • I posted below, but didn't even think about that fact....

        ...the one you stated mentioning University versions....good point!
        • but why pay that?

          When there is OpenOffice? In college I used WordPerfect because I could buy it for $20 vs the $150 for MS office.
    • I have 5 devices...

      At the risk of stating the obvious, which seems to be needed here, the idea behind Office 365 is that one is able to install it on up to 5 devices - desktops, laptops, tablets, whatever. At $99/yearly, this saves a lot of money, even after 5 years, over the cost of putting full-blown Office on 5 different devices. In addition, if one looks at Amazon.com, the first year costs less than $70, which means that over 5 years, one has spent about $470. Compare that to the cost of Office, purchased separately, for 5 devices - Office 2013 Home & Business is $220 for 1 license - multiply that by 5 & you get - wait for it - $1100! I picked Home & Business because it's the least expensive choice that includes Outlook (a necessity for me).
      Now I've spent $470, you've spent $1100 - more than twice what I did over 5 years - assuming prices remain approximately stable.

      When the latest & greatest comes out, I continue with my "rental" at roughly the same price per year, but, as there are no longer any discounts for upgrade only (which may or may not change & redefine this whole discussion), you have to buy the next full version at the going price - for each device. You can see the point.

      As for your mention of students, these students have families, in most cases, so they also would get the benefit of having Office on their devices. And a single mom as you describe wouldn't be able to afford Office in the first place - she'd probably use one of the free choices out there, most of which work with traditional Office formats, so that point is moot. On the other hand, that single mom probably has family as well, so even that point becomes moot in certain situations.

      I guess math isn't a strong point with some...
    • Remember the use-case...

      ...the mom juggling work and kids may not need Office.. If she does genuinely need it, her job likely more than pays enough to cover the $99 per year.

      The college kid gets Office at a price of $79 for four years. Sure neither likely has five computers, but that hardly makes the price hard to justify given the right use-case.
    • 5 pc

      For me, my wife, my kids, my dad.
      But I suggest you use open office 4. Its enough for writing + spreadsheet
  • Do the devs get any sleep?

    Geez, it must be a highly stressful place to work in, taking into account, you have to be developing for so many platforms and architectures.
    • It isn't one team that does that

      For instance, the Mac Office team is actually situated in a different office altogether, down in Mountain View, California. Its not like there's one guy furiously coding everything.
  • Office for Windows before iOS?

    I can understand that some on the Office team at MS will consider it of equal or greater importance than Windows. However, I see problems ahead for Windows (PC replacement or new adoption) if it comes out after the iOS version. I realize that many argue the longer Office is delayed in getting to the iPad the more likely iPad users will find other Office alternatives. Nevertheless, Office is perhaps the best flagship product for showing the utility of Windows, especially on a tablet form factor. If Office is released for iPad there will be less of a reason for tablet users to choose Windows tablets. This clearly is not in Microsoft's best interest. Better to bring out a touch-centric version of Office for Windows before other platforms. Why would Microsoft pull the rug out from under itself? But in any case, it's almost two years since Surface debuted without a touch-centric Office. This has gone on far too long.

    Microsoft needs to pour every resource into producing a whole host of highly productive and attractive software solutions (office, image and video editing, accounting, education, artistic, database, etc) that will make Windows tablets "must have" devices. Once the industry sees Microsoft producing great touch-centric software, they will follow. But MS has to get this ball rolling first.
    Curtis Quick
    • Honestly, I don't think they can do it anymore

      I worked at Microsoft for ten years on six different gigs between 1989 and 2010. In 1989 they were rocking greatness, by 1992 they were as starch-collared as IBM and the last time I worked there the place had the paranoid vibe of a crack house and the tyranny of the Kremlin. Creativity is emphatically not wanted and the great passion is now standards and procedures. And they're lousy standards .. the coding practices doc they handed me in the Intellitype group was 20 pages and didn't have one single good idea.

      MS' original greatness came from the recognition that developers need long periods of uninterrupted concentration. That was the whole secret right there. Now a developer spends 20 hours a week in recurring meetings alone in addition to one-time meetings, and gets maybe four hours a week of coding and debugging, the remainder of a (60 hour) week lost to wrestling with the checkin system and other poorly-written tools.

      The smart people have all left, what remains are a few prima donnas and a lot of obedient drones. Good contributors get fired with no indication that they are anything but esteemed, and everyone is terrified of his next annual review and the stack ranking.

      Don't look for any great work out of MS in the future. Just look at the interface for 8 and remind yourself that someone looked at and said "It's good. Ship it."
      Chris Fox
  • Who Cares? It Keeps Getting Worse

    The last usable version of Office was O2003. Each version since has been worse than the last, shoveling in new features nobody wants and shuffling around toolbars and menus so experienced users can't find the features they actually use. When I couldn't even find paragraph styles in O2010 I gave up and switched to Linux implementations.

    Not to mention there are major bugs in basic functionality that have been there since the 16-bit days. Nobody should pay money for this stuff. Go back to a worthwhile feature set and stop moving things around just to squeeze more money out of corporate buyers.
    Chris Fox