Two new versions of Office are being announced today by Microsoft: the Consumer Office 2021 version and Office LTSC for commercial customers. Office 2021 will be available for both Windows and macOS later this year, and it is designed for those who don’t want to subscribe to Microsoft 365 cloud-powered variants, similar to the previous Office 2019 release.
Microsoft has not yet fully detailed all the features and changes in Office 2021, but in Excel, the Office LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) variant will include things such as support for dark mode, improvements in accessibility, and features such as Dynamic Arrays and XLOOKUP. Office 2021 will include similar features.
Don’t expect any big changes to the UI here, either. The dark mode is the visually obvious change, but Microsoft will still focus most of its interface and cloud-powered features first on the Office versions of Microsoft 365.
Office LTSC is a strong acknowledgment from Microsoft that not all of its business customers are able to migrate to the cloud, however. “It’s just a matter of trying to meet customers where they are,” in an interview with The Verge, Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365, says. We definitely have a lot of customers who have been switching to the cloud for the past 10 months, which really happened en masse. We certainly have clients at the same time who have unique situations where they don’t feel like they should move to the cloud.
These unique situations include controlled industries where, on a monthly basis, processes and apps do not alter or manufacturing plants that depend on Office and want a locked-in time release. Microsoft is dedicated to another permanent version of Office for the future as well, but pricing is evolving and how these different versions will be funded.
Instead of the seven that Microsoft has traditionally given for Office, Office LTSC will now only be supported for five years. Pricing for Office Professional Plus, Office Regular, and individual apps for commercial customers is also 10 percent higher, with consumer and small business rates staying the same for Office 2021.
The timing of Office LTSC support aligns more closely with how Windows is supported, and as a result, Microsoft is also aligning its release schedules more closely with both Office and Windows. In the second half of 2021, both future versions of Office LTSC and Windows 10 LTSC will be announced. “They will be timed closely, although for the Windows release we don’t have the details yet,” Spataro says. “The idea is to bring them together closely so that companies can deploy and manage them at a similar cadence type.”