Microsoft Likely to Release Office 2016 Later This Year

NEWS ANALYSIS: The next version of Microsoft Office will deliver some new features when it's released in the second half of 2015, but details are still sketchy.  

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Microsoft will release the next full version of Microsoft Office in the second half of 2015, according to a blog entry by Julia White, general manager of product marketing for Office and who is also part of the Office 365 team. This release keeps to Microsoft's practice of issuing a new version of Office every three years, with the most recent being Office 2013.

This new version, which as you'd expect will be called Office 2016, is designed specifically for computers with a mouse and keyboard. Both the Windows and MacOS versions of the product will have the same name and are expected to be released around the same time.

Office remains an important product for enterprises since the vast majority of enterprise computers run major portions of Office, including Outlook, Word and PowerPoint, even if they don't fully implement the full suite of content creation tools.

It's not clear at this point whether the fact that the announcement came from the Office 365 team was significant. Currently, Office subscribers get a version of Office 2013 that's continually updated. The practice in the past has been that Office 365 users get the new version and new features as they're released, so it seems likely that Office 2016 will reach subscription users in the same way.

What Microsoft isn't saying is whether Office 365 will be the primary released edition. Currently, the perpetually licensed version of Office 2013 (or earlier versions) is what is in place at most companies.

The reason has as much to do with licensing polices as it does with technology. In the past, large enterprises have had some very favorable licensing deals available when they're buying in large numbers, which is part of the reason Office is very much a corporate standard.

But, these days, Microsoft has shown a strong fondness for selling software on a subscription arrangement, so it may be that the default deal for corporations will become some type of subscription.

However, not all companies will favor a subscription sales model, if only because it adds complexity to their management environment. But if an enterprise plans to keep its existing copies of Office for longer than around three years, then the subscription will also cost more.

Microsoft said in its blog post that the new version of Office will offer "compelling new experiences." I suspect this actually translates into meaning that Office will have some cool new features that you don't know that you want or need yet.

Right now, there's little indication what those new features might be. Preliminary reports indicate some changes in the appearance of some icons on the ribbon bar, but little else.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...