Microsoft’s release of Office 2019 this week has triggered a bit of confusion in the user community. Your questions are understandable, as this release marks an important change in the way that Microsoft makes and sells its office productivity solutions.
And if this release is confusing to you, take heart: It’s confusing to just about everyone, myself included. So I spoke with Microsoft corporate vice president Jared Spataro at the software giant’s Ignite 2018 conference. And he neatly cleared up the confusion.
Office 2019 is the latest version of Microsoft’s standalone Office productivity suite. It’s what the firm now calls the “perpetual” version of Office, or what old-timers like myself might still call “on-premises.” And that’s for good reason: As Spataro told me, Office 2019 doesn’t offer any of the cloud-connected features that Office 365 subscribers would see using the exact same apps. Thus, it is, in fact, a subset of Microsoft Office compared to the versions of the suite—or, the applications—that Office 365 subscribers see.
This is an important distinction: For the first time ever, a major new release of Microsoft Office provides less functionality than what current users—in this case, Office 365 subscribers—already have access to.
This isn’t the way Microsoft markets the product, of course. And it’s fair to say that Office 2019—e.g. the perpetual version of Microsoft Office—provides more functionality than its predecessor, Office 2016.
For Office 365, Microsoft quietly dropped the year-based version numbers from the Office desktop applications. You can see this when you start up Word or one of the other applications: The about box that pops up while it loads will read “Office 365” rather than the version number (like “2016” or “2019”).