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Microsoft relents on Office support cutoff dates

Microsoft is extending its support window for Office 365 ProPlus on some Windows variants, as well as Office 2016's ability to continue to work with Office 365.

In February this year, Microsoft drew some bold lines in the sand regarding its Office support plans by restricting how long it would support Office 365 ProPlus on various versions of Windows and how long Office 2016 would be able to work with Office 365 services. But on Sept. 6, Microsoft reversed course on these controversial moves.

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Credit: Microsoft

Earlier this year, Microsoft officials said they'd no longer support Office 365 ProPlus on Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2016 and older and any Windows 10 Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC), as of Jan. 14, 2020. This was despite the fact that Windows 8.1 will continue to be supported and patched by Microsoft until Jan. 10, 2023. Windows Server 2016 is still in support until Jan. 11, 2027.

Office 365 ProPlus, which is available via subscription licensing only, comes with locally-installable Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business, and the Office mobile apps.

Microsoft's argument was that these coming restrictions would "ensure that both Office and Windows receive regular, coordinated updates to provide the most secure environment with the latest capabilities."

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Today, however, based on customer feedback, Microsoft officials said that Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported on Windows 8.1 through January 2023, which is the end of support date for Windows 8.1. Office 365 ProPlus will continue to be supported on Windows Server 2016 until October 2025, which is still short of the 2027 end-of-support date for Windows Server, but five years longer than the cut-off date set in February.

(Why 2025? A spokesperson said: "We want to support Office 365 ProPlus as long as we support other versions of Office on Windows Server 2016. We will support Office 2016 on Windows Server 2016 until October 2025 [that's the end of support date for Office 2016 on all platforms], so we'll support ProPlus on Windows Server 2016 until that date as well.")

Microsoft also said earlier this year that as of October 2020, users would need to be running either Office 365 ProPlus or Office 2019 clients to continue to connect to Office 365 back-end services. Office 2016, which remains supported by Microsoft until 2025, wouldn't work any more as of October 2020, they said.

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But today, again, based on customer feedback, Microsoft will continue to allow Office 2016 clients to work with Office 365 back-end services through October 2023.

Office 2019, the "perpetual," non-subscription version of the Office apps, is on track to ship this fall. Just a reminder: Instead of providing five years of mainstream and five years of extended support for Office 2019, Microsoft is going to provide five years of mainstream support and approximately two years of extended support so as to align with the extended-support end date for Office 2016 (which is Oct. 14, 2025).

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