Office 2019 vs. Office 365: What’s Really Happening

Microsoft’s release of Office 2019 this week has triggered a little bit of confusion within the user community. Your questions are understandable, as this release marks an essential alternation in the way that Microsoft makes and sells its office productivity solutions.

And if this release is confusing for you, take heart: It’s confusing to just about everyone, myself included. And so i spoke with Microsoft corporate v . p . Jared Spataro in the software giant’s Ignite 2018 conference. And he neatly cleared up the confusion.

Office 2019 is the new edition 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 explained, Office 2019 doesn’t offer any of the cloud-connected features that Office 365 subscribers would see while using identical apps. Thus, it is, actually, a subset of Microsoft Office when compared to versions of the suite-or, the applications-that Office 365 subscribers see.

It is really an important distinction: The very first time ever, a major era of Microsoft Office provides less functionality than current users-in this example, Office 365 subscribers-already have access to.

This isn’t the way in which Microsoft markets the merchandise, 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 in the Office desktop applications. You can see this when you begin up Word or one from the other applications: The about box that appears while it loads will read “Office 365” as opposed to the version number (like “2016” or “2019”).

Which isn’t marketing. At its core, the version of, say, Word that you launch as a perpetual customer (Word 2016 or 2019) is equivalent to the version you launch as an Office 365 subscriber. But the Office 365 version of the app includes much more features. And when you’re paying attention to this part of the Microsoft ecosystem, when i do, you will know it offers far more features: Microsoft adds a lot of new capabilities to its Office 365 apps-across PC and Mac desktops, mobile, web, an internet-based services-every single month. It makes the Windows 10 update schedule look slow in comparison.

“We’ve evolved Office 365 to address how customers work today,” Mr. Spataro told me. “They desire to use the larger screens on PCs or Macs for creation, they also wish to work offline, and on cellular devices. So we’re adapting Office to take advantage of each device type and scenario.”

I’ve long described Office 365 as a “no-brainer” for people (Office 365 Personal), families (Office 365 Home), and businesses of any size and types (Office 365 commercial). In the beginning, this assessment was associated with two major advantages: The 1 TB of OneDrive-based storage that every customer receives and liberal access to the Office desktop applications and mobile/web apps across multiple devices.

But in the last year or two, the rapid addition of new cloud-connected features, many of which taking advantage of Microsoft’s unique AI prowess, has tipped the scales. So Office 365 is completely still a no-brainer. However it’s for three primary reasons, not two. And due to this rapid release schedule, which includes routine quality updates as well as the new features, Office 365 customers are also safer as well.

But to Office 2019 and the confusion this release has triggered.

Office 2019 provides all of the fixes and non-cloud updates that Microsoft has added to Office 2016 in the last 3 years and packages these questions more traditional form. It’s aimed at those customers-commercial first, but a version for consumers is originating soon, too-that is only going to make use of the product on one PC as well as in “air gap” scenarios where the PC is rarely or even never online.

And it’s not about addressing a Luddite segment of the audience. There are customers who require to make use of Office in situations in which they’d like to be online but cannot for a number of reasons. Submarines, perhaps, or oil platforms.

Most surprisingly, Office 2019 isn’t no more the road, either. Unlike my suspicions, Microsoft isn’t being wishy-washy about whether or not it will release an Office 2022 (or whatever).

“We will do another perpetual discharge of Office,” Spataro explained. “We will absolutely do more.”

So the big change with Office 2019, really, is that Microsoft is redefining exactly what the version numbers mean. If you do see a version number-2019, within this case-then you’re looking at a perpetual or on-premises form of Office that does not take advantage of the amazing variety of cloud- and AI-based features that Microsoft is adding for Office 365 customers. You’re looking at less, not more.

And this means that Office 365 subscribers already are using versions of Word and the other Office desktop applications that are superior in each and every way to what’s available in Office 2019. You’re not getting an Office 2019 update on Office 365. You’re just going to continue getting more functional and quality updates to Office. Every single month.

Welcome to the new Office.

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