Microsoft Releases Previews of Perpetual-License Office Products

New versions of Office 2021 for Mac and the Microsoft Office long-term servicing channel (LTSC) release for Windows are now in "commercial preview."

The previews for Office LTSC for Windows and Office 2021 for Mac "will be available from April 22, 2021 thru January 17, 2022," according to this FAQ document. The commercial preview designation means these releases are just for organizational users, not for consumer Office users. The previews are intended for testing purposes and shouldn't be used in production environments, Microsoft indicated.

These Office productivity suites include the traditional Excel, PowerPoint and Word applications (plus Visio Pro and Project Pro for Windows users) and will get sold under so-called "perpetual licenses," rather than subscriptions. One characteristic of the perpetual-license model is that organizations pay for the Office product in one lump sum. Perpetual licensees don't get access to the new feature updates that arrive to Office users who pay via recurring Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

Microsoft is targeting the general availability commercial release of these Office perpetual-license products for "the second half of 2021," according to the FAQ.

Use Cases
Microsoft deems the Office LTSC for Windows and Office 2021 for Mac products as being device-based perpetual-license products designed for use by "commercial and government customers." They should just be used when frequent software updates can't be tolerated by an organization, according to the announcement:

The next perpetual version of Office for commercial customers is built specifically for organizations running regulated devices that cannot accept feature updates for years at a time, process control devices that are not connected to the internet in manufacturing facilities, and specialty systems that must stay locked in time and require a long-term servicing channel. 

The perpetual-license Office products can be run without an Internet connection because they lack Microsoft 365 "cloud-connected capabilities like real-time collaboration and intelligent capabilities," the FAQ explained. It's possible to get monthly quality and security updates via a centralized device on-premises, rather than having all devices connect to the Internet.

Truncated Support and Cost Increase
Microsoft's announcement affirmed that the new Office LTSC for Windows and Office 2021 for Mac perpetual-license products, when commercially released, will have just five total years of "mainstream" support, and no "extended support." Those products still follow Microsoft's Fixed Lifecycle Policy in terms of support, but its past 10 years of support will get halved when these new products reach "general availability" commercial release. 

Plans to truncate support for the new perpetual-licensed Office products by five years were announced by Microsoft back in February. At that time, Microsoft also indicated that it was planning to increase the price of the new Office LTSC perpetual-license product by 10 percent. Also listed back then as slated for getting 10 percent price hikes were "Office Professional Plus, Office Standard and the individual apps."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.