In recent years, Microsoft has been focusing on its 365 product offering. The subscription-based service has gained plenty of users as the company shifts away from pay-once, keep-forever software. However, Microsoft hasn’t totally abandoned the one-time purchase model for its suite of Office products.
Earlier this week, the Big Tech giant announced that it will be releasing the next iteration of its productivity suite, Office 2021, later this year. Two versions will be available, one for consumers and one for enterprise clients.
Unsurprisingly, the software will be available for both Windows and macOS. It’s unclear if the apps will run natively with Apple’s M1 chip, but the performance of Office 2021 shouldn’t be greatly affected either way.
Microsoft’s cloud-based 365 offerings certainly have plenty of benefits. They are always accessible, automatically save your work, and don’t need to be downloaded. Of course, many users prefer working within a program that’s installed on their device rather than a cloud-based one. Microsoft 365 offers downloadable software with its more expensive plans, but the cheapest tiers limit users to browser-based versions.
The bigger difference, however, is how consumers pay for each version of Office. One-time purchase variants, like Office 2019 and the upcoming Office 2021, don’t have a reoccurring charge to keep using the software. Once you purchase and download it, you’re able to use it forever—albeit without security updates after a while.
Microsoft 365 assures users that they’ll always have the latest security updates installed and often grants access to new features first. That comes at a price, however, since the subscription fee repeats on a monthly basis.
New Office Features
According to Microsoft’s announcement on Friday, Office 2021 will arrive with a number of new features. Perhaps the most exciting for many users is a true dark mode. Rather than simply darkening the UI, Office 2021 darkens the actual page as well, inverting the text color to make late-night work easier on the eyes.
Speaking of the UI, users shouldn’t expect much to change on that front. Although there have been many rumors about Microsoft planning to redesign its productivity suite with a more streamlined UI, that isn’t happening just yet. Ribbons and toolbars will be back in Office 2021.
Meanwhile, users can look forward to things like Dynamic arrays, XLOOKUP in Excel, and a variety of accessibility improvements.
Another item worth noting (no pun intended) is that Office 2021 will ship with OneNote. Although the app is already free to download, Microsoft has recommitted to supporting its popular note-taking app.
Thanks to the impact of COVID-19 and remote work, Microsoft Teams will also be a standard part of Office 2021. It will replace the rarely-used Skype for Business app.
Not Ready for the Cloud
By committing to another rollout of one-time purchase Office software, Microsoft clearly understands that not all companies are ready to make the transition to the cloud. Although it is clearly the way of the future, those stuck in their ways will have several more years to prepare.
Microsoft plans to support Office 2021 for a period of five years after its launch. That’s a decrease from the seven years that were previously supported but is still fairly generous.
As the company rolls out its new Office suite later this year, it will be interesting to see how both consumers and enterprise clients respond.