Microsoft defends Office 365 subscription, servicing model

What's Microsoft done lately for Office 365 ProPlus subscribers? A new Microsoft blog post provides some answers to that very question.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

A recent report from earlier this week claimed that Microsoft "hasn't given consumers much reason to renew Office." The CITEworld story, focused on Office 365 Home Premium, claimed that Microsoft has added almost no new features or functionality during the past year to the offering, making renewals less attractive.


While I personally consider additions like support for Office Mobile on iPhones and Android phones to count as a "feature," I think it's fair to say that Microsoft officials haven't made it clear what they've done to update the locally installable 2013 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that are part of Office Home Premium.

On the business side of the house, Microsoft execs also haven't said much in the past year about the updates and improvements they've made to the full suite of Office 2013 apps that those with an Office 365 Professional Plus (Office ProPlus) subscription have received over the past year.

But a January 21 Office IT Pro blog post (part one of a two parter) clarifies the "what did Microsoft do for me lately with Office" situation considerably.

First things first: What is Office 365 ProPlus? It's not a Web-based version of Office, but it is the full collection of Microsoft's Office apps -- Access, Excel, InfoPath, Lync, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word -- sold as a monthly Office 365 subscription. These apps all are meant to be installed on users' local computers using Microsoft's Click-to-Run technology. (Apps can be installed on up to five different computers with a single Office 365 license.)

The new January 21 post highlights a number of frequently asked questions about the Automatic Updates functionality in Office 365 ProPlus. Office 365 ProPlus is configured by default to automatically update monthly from the cloud and install updates when Office apps and processes aren't running.

A couple of highlights from the FAQ:

  • Microsoft is planning to provide SP1 for Office 2013 as a monthly build/update to Office 365 ProPlus users later this year. ("Early 2014," last we heard.)
  • The next "major" version of Office ("Office 16"?) also will be delivered to Office 365 ProPlus subscribers as a monthly build/update.
  • Each monthly build/update that Microsoft delivers automatically to Office 365 ProPlus users "may contain security updates, non-security updates, and functionality improvements." There's a list of changes that Microsoft made to each build on this Microsoft Support site. Microsoft will not allow separate security and non-security updates; they are intertwined -- something it sounds like a number of IT users have complained about, based on the FAQ.
  • All updates are cumulative, so each build contains all the other changes from previous builds.
  • Office 365 ProPlus updates are not provided via Windows Update.
  • Users can opt to test Office 365 ProPlus updates before approving them for deployment.

The full FAQ is worth a read.

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