Microsoft preps for the coming Office 365 refresh

Microsoft is planning a major refresh of its Office 365 cloud-hosted business apps, possibly later this month. Here's what it's telling partners to expect with the coming roll-out.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft officials still have yet to share publicly the planned launch date for Office 2013 and the related Office 365 refresh. But the company is beginning to prep its channel partners for the occasion.


This week, Microsoft provided some of its resellers and integrators with marching orders about the coming Microsoft-hosted Office 365 updates. The week of January 21, Microsoft is holding additional partner training in Redmond for the upcoming Office 365 and Office 2013 launches.

Here's some of what it told them, according to Charles Drengberg (@CDrengberg on Twitter), Microsoft Business Manager and Virtual Technical Specialist with En Pointe Technologies:

  • Office 365 users will receive upgrade notifications 14 days prior to the date Microsoft plans to move them to the latest Office 365 release. (Some users already have been told they will be allowed to upgrade in January 2013).
  • U.S. customers will receive upgrades first, with Europe/UK/Africa following several months later. Japan/Korea/Pacific Rim will follow after that.
  • Upgrades will all be completed by "early November 2013." Even users who've opted to postpone their upgrade dates, will be required to upgrade by this time.
  • Standalone Exchange Online tenants will be upgraded first, with "E" Suite (Enterprise)  tenants to follow. For those with hybrid online/on-premises Exchange deployments, Exchange 2010 Service Pack 3 will be required in order to use the Exchange Management Console. (Here's what's new in the on-premises version of Exchange Server 2013.)
  • The new Office (2013 components) will require Windows 7 or Windows 8. As of April 2013, users who want to deploy the new Office components on both PCs and Macs (under the new Office 365 terms allowing installation on up to five PCs and Macs) will have to have Office 2011 and/or a "newer" version installed on their Macs.
  • Microsoft's free Office Web Apps also will be updated to the latest version. The Lync Web App will be upgraded to HD and will include a "Brady Bunch" style group-video conferencing feature that allows participants to see everyone at once.
  • Office 2010 will be available for download through Office 365 until April 8, 2014

I've heard January 29 might be the new Office launch date; it seems others are hearing the same rumor. (Brazilian users also are hearing Microsoft is launching some product on that date.) Microsoft officials are not commenting on the timing at this point.

Microsoft did make public late last year a list of the coming Office 365 SKUs that should be available as of launch. These include everything from Office 365 Small Business, to Office 365 for Mid-Size Business and Enterprise. Microsoft has made public the official pricing on some of these SKUs.

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