Microsoft's M365 subscription for consumers now looking like a spring 2020 thing

Microsoft's plan to turn Office 365 consumer subscriptions into 'Microsoft 365 Life' ones is continuing to take shape. The new reveal date is looking like spring 2020.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

As 2019 comes to a close, Microsoft still has not announced its expected Microsoft 365 subscription for consumers. It's still on the agenda, but for next year instead of this one. And I'm hearing the working name for it is currently "M365 Life" (and codenamed "Alta").

I originally wrote about Microsoft's plans for a Microsoft 365 bundle for consumers in December 2018. Earlier this year, some of us thought Microsoft might be ready to unveil that new subscription, given some users were seeing their Office 365 products and services mysteriously rebranded to "Microsoft 365."

Since then, I've heard from my sources that Microsoft originally planned to take the wraps off its M365 consumer subscription at Build 2019 and ship them later in the summer, but decided to postpone its announcement until the spring of 2020.

During his appearance at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on December 3, Rajesh Jha, Microsoft Executvie Vice Presient of Experiences & Devices, made a vague reference to the coming M365 consumer subscription offering. He noted that Microsoft has been positioning M365 as "the world's productivity cloud," and told Credit Suisse attendees that "we want to bring the same vision to consumers, also." He didn't talk about timing or any other specifics about the consumer subscription offering, however. (I asked Microsoft officials to see if they'd say more, but a spokesperson said the company had no comment.)

Microsoft 365 is Microsoft's bundle of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility and Security. Microsoft offers a number of different M365 commercial and education SKUs currently, but so far does not have an M365-branded offering for consumers.

The Microsoft 365 Life bundles will largely be a rebrand of the existing Office 365 Personal and Home products and, as of right now, are expected to retain the same pricing as the existing O365 consumer subscription bundles, my sources say. (Microsoft O365 Home goes for $99.99 and Personal for $69.99 per year.) Microsoft will market these new bundles as being about more than just core productivity by including some distinctly consumer-focused features, such as a password manager, I hear.

I'd expect the rumored "Teams for Life" version of Microsoft's Teams group-chat product also could fit into a M365 Life subscription, as well. I am not hearing games or game streaming will be part of the M365 Life bundle, which makes sense given Microsoft already has a number of gaming subscription offerings.

If you're wondering about why Microsoft is using "Life" in these consumer subscription names, there actually is a branding reason. In 2018, Microsoft officials began talking up Microsoft's plan to try to re-engage consumers via its "Modern Life and Devices" approach. The M365 Life subscription falls under the domain of Modern Life and Devices. (Yusuf Mehdi is Corporate Vice President of Modern Life, Search and Devices.)  

A couple of additional points worth mentioning from Jha's remarks from yesterday at Credit Suisse.... He told conference attendees that Microsoft currently considers M365 a truly integrated product, rather than just a bundle of three separate things sold under a single license, like it was two to three years ago. (This claim fits with the new go-forward mission of the M365 marketing team, which I discussed earlier this year.) He played up how Project Cortex, Microsoft's coming knowledge-management capabilities, will help grow this integration across products. Jha also said that Microsoft is seeing customers who buy into its M365 vision are generating higher revenue per user and experiencing less churn than customers who don't.

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