Microsoft has announced plans to release a consumer version of Office 2021, a standalone version of Microsoft 365 that will have some, but not all of the features of Microsoft’s perpetually-updating cloud productivity service. This may be the first standalone version of Office to ship with Microsoft Teams as a standard feature.
Microsoft will release Office 2021 for personal and small business users “later this year,” Microsoft said in a blog post late on Thursday. Microsoft said it did not plan to change the prices for this new release, meaning that the cheapest version of Office 2021 will be $150, the price Microsoft charges for Microsoft Office Home and Student 2019. (That version doesn’t include Microsoft Outlook, just Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.) There will be versions for both the Mac and Windows, Microsoft said.
Since Microsoft began releasing its standalone or, as it calls them, “one-time purchases” or “perpetual” versions of its Office software, they’ve shipped with a limited set of features and support. They are designed for customers who feel that the ongoing updates of a Microsoft 365 subscription don’t add value to their purchase, or who can’t or won’t pay for an ongoing subscription. Office 2021 will be supported for five years, Microsoft said.
Microsoft’s blog post declined to say which features would be included or excluded from Office 2021’s consumer version. Microsoft’s commercial version, known as the Microsoft Office Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC), may offer some clues, however. That version will include accessibility improvements, capabilities like Dynamic Arrays and XLOOKUP in Excel, dark mode support across multiple apps, and performance improvements across Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, Microsoft said. The next version of Office will not ship with the Skype for Business client app, which will be available as a download in the Microsoft Download Center. It will ship with the Microsoft Teams app, “allowing customers to enable and trial this experience if they so choose,” Microsoft added.
Unlike with the consumer version of Office, whose price remains unchanged, Microsoft said it will increase the price of its LTSC versions—Office Professional Plus, Office Standard, and the individual Office apps—by up to 10 percent at the time of general availability in the second half of 2021.
Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Office 365, Jared Spataro, formally confirmed that there would be a new version of Office LTSC in the future, but he did not make that same explicit promise for the consumer version.