Microsoft plans a standalone Office 2016 for end of 2015

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At one point, the announcement of an anticipated ship date of the next release of Microsoft Office would be big news. As it is, Microsoft’s release of Office 2016 may not be the milestone some might expect.

Julia White, the general manager of Office for Microsoft, said the company would ship the next version of Office at the end of 2015, according to a report by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet. Office 2016 (or 16), as it will be known, will be a joint release of both desktop and server apps, according to Foley. White reportedly made the announcements at the Microsoft TechEd Europe show in Barcelona.

Microsoft representatives neither confirmed nor denied the report at press time.

In the meantime, of course, Microsoft is busy signing up subscribers for Office 365, its subscription service that rolls up new updates and features into Office on a periodic basis. Office 365 is available in personal subscriptions up through enterprise licenses. In its recent earnings conference call, Microsoft said that consumer Office 365 subscriptions total more than 7 million subscribers, up 25 percent from a quarter ago, and the number of commericial subscriptions nearly doubled. To keep consumers and businesses interested, Microsoft recently revealed its roadmap of upcoming features.

Microsoft hasn’t said what features Office 16 will include, but it’s almost certain that the release will essentially “roll up” existing Office features to a certain point. Unfortunately, that will probably mean that Office customers won’t get perpetual updates, either—if history holds, that is.

Still, 7 million consumers plus an unknown number of corporate customers is still a fraction of the 268 million traditional PCs predicted to be sold during 2014, according to Gartner, even with an additional number of Windows tablets sold on top of that. Microsoft has its sights set on customers that can deliver recurring, stable revenues based on Office 365, but it still needs a dedicated base of Office users.

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