More Office 365 subscribers are starting to get Office 2016

Microsoft's Office 2016 is starting to roll out to a number of Office 365 customers this month as part of Microsoft's updated Office servicing model.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Even though Microsoft began rolling out Office 2016 for Windows last September, only some of its customers were eligible to get the latest version of the company's Office suite at that time.


This month, February 2016, is when more users are starting to get the Office 2016 apps as part of their Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions.

A quick refresher on Microsoft's new Office-as-a-service delivery model: Last fall, Microsoft execs said the company was making changes to the Office update model that would parallel, in many ways, how the company is updating Windows 10. As with Windows 10, Office updates and security fixes would be available at different frequencies depending on which "branch" of which users were part.

Office Current Branch subscribers -- both consumer (Home and Personal) and new business customers -- are on tap to receive Office updates and security fixes monthly. But Office 365 business users on the Current Branch for Business (CBB) will get updates and fixes three times per year, officials announced last fall.

The first new set of updates for those with Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions (Enterprise, Mid-Size and Education customers) were set to kick off in February 2016. And that remains the plan, a company spokesperson reverified to me recently.

If administrators have configured their users to get updates directly from the Office Content Delivery Network on the Internet, the Office 2016 upgrade will begin this month and Office 2016 files will be automatically downloaded to users' computers. (Admins can block this by using the Office Deployment Tool or Group Policy and the Update Path policy setting.) Those who've configured users to get updates from their internal networks have more control as to when Office 2016 will be rolled out to those with Office 365 ProPlus.

Office 365 ProPlus, at $12 per user per month, includes the ability to install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Project, Access and Skype on up to five PCs or Macs, plus use Office on up to five additional smartphones and tablets.

For any Office 365 ProPlus subscribers who still want and need to receive updates for Office 2013, there is a way. Microsoft will continue to offer updates for Office 2013 until February 2017. In order to get the Office 2013 version using Office 365 ProPlus, admins/users need to take the proactive steps listed in this TechNet article.

For more details about how admins/users can control when and how Office 365 users get the latest Office apps, the Australian OEM Team blog has a lot of good links and resources.

In other Office 365 Pro Plus news of potential interest, Microsoft has just changed the requirements for customers and hosting companies who want to deliver Office to multiple users sharing the same hardware. Microsoft is now allowing hosting partners who are first tier Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) participants to deploy multi-tenant remote desktop workloads with Office 365 ProPlus and/or E3, E4 or E5 SKUs on premises or in Azure. Before now, these workloads could only be run on-premises with dedicated hardware.

Update: Microsoft just blogged today about Office 2016 and Current Branch for Business -- which has been renamed to "Deferred Channel."

From Microsoft's February 9 post:

"Starting today, you can download the Deferred Channel build directly from the Office CDN, and on Feb 23, 2016, the build will be available in the Office 365 User Software Page."

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