Microsoft makes previews available of its non-subscription Office products

Microsoft is releasing the first previews of its Office LTSC and Office 2021 for Mac, the next versions of its Office client that won't require a subscription.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is making available today, April 22, the first preview releases of a couple of its promised next-generation "perpetual" (non-subscription) Office client products.

Microsoft is delivering a first public preview of its Office Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release, the successor to Office 2019, designed for larger businesses and government users. It also is releasing its first Office 2021 for Mac preview -- which it says is also for larger business and government customers.

Update: Microsoft is not yet releasing the Office 2021 for Windows or Mac products. Microsoft isn't planning to release a preview of these clients, which will be for small/mid-size businesses and consumers; it is simply planning to release them to market later this year. And yes, the SMB/consumer version for Mac will be called simply "Office 2021" (as will the Windows version), while the larger business/government version will be called "Office 2021 for Mac."

More information on what's included (and not) and the download links are available on this Microsoft docs page.

As Microsoft officials said in February, Office LTSC only will have five years of support, as will Office 2021 and Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC, going forward.

Microsoft is emphasizing that Office LTSC is meant for "a limited set of specific situations," not simply for customers who don't like the cloud/subscription model. Regulated devices that can't get feature updates for years at a time; process control devices in manufacturing and other specialty systems that are locked are examples of cases where Microsoft isn't expecting customers to run the subscription versions of Office and where the perpetual versions make sense, execs said.

Both Office LTSC and Office 2021 will include a subset of the features and functionality that Office 365/Microsoft 365 subscribers get regularly with their downloaded Office apps. However, perpetual Office users still will get some new features, including accessibility improvements, capabilities like Dynamic Arrays and XLOOKUP in Excel, dark mode support across multiple
apps, and performance improvements across Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, officials said. 

The core of the Office perpetual SKUs won't change: They will still include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and other key apps. Office LTSC won't ship with the Skype for Business client, but the Skype for Business client app can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center for those who want/need it. Instead, the Teams app will be part of the suite. Officials also noted that they plan to increase the pricing of Office Pro Plus; Office Standard and the individual perpetual apps "by up to 10%" at the time of general availability. Pricing of the Office 2021 SKU, however, won't change from the current Office perpetual SKU pricing.

Microsoft officials announced last fall that new, on-premises versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Skype for Business will be released in the second half of 2021. The new server products only will be available if customers purchase a subscription license, which will entitle them to get support, product updates, and time-zone patches.  

Microsoft officials have said this year's perpetual Office clients won't be the last non-subscription versions of Office. There will be at least one more perpetual Office client wave following this year's versions.