Microsoft is announcing two new versions of Office today: a consumer Office 2021 version and Office LTSC for commercial customers. Office 2021 will be available later this year for both Windows and macOS, and similar to the previous Office 2019 release, it’s designed for those who don’t want to subscribe to the cloud-powered Microsoft 365 variants.
Microsoft isn’t fully detailing all of the features and changes in Office 2021 just yet, but the Office LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) variant will include things like dark mode support, accessibility improvements, and features like Dynamic Arrays and XLOOKUP in Excel. Office 2021 will include similar features.
Don’t expect any major UI changes here, either. Dark mode is the obvious change visually, but Microsoft will still focus most of its interface and cloud-powered features on the Microsoft 365 versions of Office first.
Office LTSC is a clear recognition from Microsoft that not all of its business customers are ready to move to the cloud, though. “It’s just a matter of trying to meet customers where they are,” explains Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, in an interview with The Verge. “We certainly have a lot of customers that have moved to the cloud over the last 10 months, that’s happened en masse really. At the same time, we definitely have customers who have specific scenarios where they don’t feel like they can move to the cloud.”
Those specific scenarios include regulated industries where processes and apps can’t change on a monthly basis, or manufacturing plants that rely on Office and want a locked-in time release. Microsoft is also committing to another perpetual version of Office for the future, but it’s changing up pricing and how these new versions will be supported.
Office LTSC will now only be supported for five years instead of the seven that Microsoft has typically provided for Office. Pricing for Office Professional Plus, Office Standard, and individual apps is also increasing 10 percent for commercial customers, with the Office 2021 consumer and small business pricing remaining the same.
The Office LTSC support timing aligns more closely with how Windows is supported, and Microsoft is also aligning its release schedules for both Office and Windows more closely as a result. Both of the next versions of Office LTSC and Windows 10 LTSC will be released in the second half of 2021. “They will be closely timed, although we don’t have the details yet for the Windows release,” says Spataro. “The idea is to bring them close together so that enterprises can deploy and manage them on a similar type of cadence.”
Microsoft is now planning to release a preview of Office LTSC in April, with a full release later this year. The consumer Office 2021 variant won’t be available in preview, though. Both of the new Office variants will also ship with OneNote and include 32-bit and 64-bit versions.