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Microsoft 365 Apps Users Now Have a New Monthly Update Option

Microsoft this week announced a new monthly update option for organizations using the Microsoft 365 Apps service, formerly known as "Office 365 ProPlus."

The new update option (known as a "channel" in Microsoft lingo) adds more options for organizations, giving them a slightly slower update pace. In addition, Microsoft announced it was renaming its existing Microsoft 365 Apps channel names. The new channel names are perhaps more descriptive, but they also may require some IT pro attention if configurations still point to the old names.

New Monthly Enterprise Channel
The new update channel for Microsoft 365 Apps users is called the "Monthly Enterprise Channel." It's currently available for use with version 2003 of Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise and Microsoft 365 Apps for business.

The Monthly Enterprise Channel has the benefit of getting Microsoft 365 Apps updates only on the second Tuesday of each month, giving IT pros a more predictable update sequence. Each Monthly Enterprise Channel release is good for two months before requiring an upgrade to the next release to stay supported, according to Microsoft's "Overview of Update Channels for Microsoft 365 Apps" document.

Microsoft's old Monthly Channel is somewhat different from the new Monthly Enterprise Channel. The Monthly Channel (now renamed as the "Current Channel") can get multiple updates within a month, whereas the new Monthly Enterprise Channel just gets updated once per month.

Microsoft recommends using the new Monthly Enterprise Channel if organizations need "a more predictable release schedule for monthly feature updates."

Channel Name Changes
Microsoft also described plans to rename the existing update channels used with the Microsoft 365 Apps service. The changes are described in the following table:

New Name Previous Name
Beta channel Insider
(sometimes referred to as Insider Fast)
Current Channel (Preview) Monthly Channel (Targeted)
(sometimes referred to as Insider Slow)
Current Channel Monthly Channel
Monthly Enterprise Channel --
Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel (Preview) Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)
Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel Semi-Annual Channel

Table 1. Microsoft's new update channel names for Microsoft 365 Apps (source: "Changes to update channels for Microsoft 365 Apps" document). The new Monthly Enterprise Channel name was in effect on May 12, 2020. Other name changes will take effect on June 9, 2020.

New Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise tenancies will get the Current Channel by default, starting on June 9, 2020, unless configuration changes are made by IT pros. The Current Channel is good for about one month before having to upgrade to the next release, but it can get updated multiple times within a month. Microsoft 365 Apps for business tenancies already get the Current Channel by default.

Existing Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise tenancies won't get their update settings changed to the new Current Channel on the June 9 date, though.

"There is no change to the default update channel setting for existing tenants," Microsoft's announcement explained.

However, IT pros that have used XML files to specify the channels they use for Microsoft 365 Apps updates may need to change the attribute values to reflect the new channel names, starting on June 9, 2020, as described in Microsoft's "Changes to update channels for Microsoft 365 Apps" document. However, the need to make those attribute name changes is somewhat ambiguous, as the document included this note:

After June 9, 2020, previous attribute values for each update channel will still be valid. For example, if you use Broad in your configuration XML file, Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel will be installed. We're keeping the previous attribute values valid so that you don't have to update your existing configuration XML files.

Similarly, the new channel names will be reflected in the Microsoft Update Catalog, starting on June 9, 2020. Microsoft's document included a cautionary note that this sort of change could affect Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager users if they have an automatic deployment rule that uses the old channel names in the "Title" property.

In general, Microsoft is recommending using its latest update configuration and management tools, which will reflect the new channel name changes on June 9, 2020.

April Name Change Recap
IT pros may still be getting their sea legs on Microsoft's name changes. Here's a recap of the product name changes made by Microsoft last month.

In late March, Microsoft announced Office 365 productivity suite name changes. At that time, Microsoft explained it was changing the names of Office 365 ProPlus and Office 365 Business to "Microsoft 365 Apps," to take effect on April 21, 2020.

Both of those Office 365 productivity suites were to be called Microsoft 365 Apps. However, they sometimes would get distinguished by adding the phrases "for business" or "for enterprise" after their common product name.

Here's how Microsoft put it back in March:

Office 365 Business and Office 365 ProPlus will both become Microsoft 365 Apps. Where necessary we will use the "for business" and "for enterprise" labels to distinguish between the two.

This week's news describing the addition of the new Monthly Enterprise Channel just indicated it was available for Microsoft 365 Apps users. By definition, it implies that the new channel can be used by both business and enterprise Microsoft 365 Apps product users.

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