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Microsoft Office 2019 release will force IT to migrate to Windows 10

If you're not yet on Windows 10, news about the upcoming Microsoft Office 2019 release may force your hand. Plus, the company could go all in on Office 365.

Changes to Microsoft Office support guidelines mean that IT departments have more reason than ever to move to Windows 10 and Office 365.

When the Microsoft Office 2019 release comes out later this year, Microsoft will support it only on Windows 10, the company said this week. Organizations that want support for the new version of Office on Windows 7 or 8.1 must buy a subscription to Office 365. These moves will push IT to migrate to Windows 10 and ensure that any holdouts pay up for Office 365.

"Microsoft certainly wants customers to modernize," said Tim Mangan, founder at TMurgent Technologies in Canton, Mass. "It's not a bad goal, although Microsoft has to prove to everyone that they can run Windows as a service and customers are not going to get tremendous problems."

A push for Windows 10

More than 45% of organizations plan to deploy or migrate to Windows 10 this year, according to the TechTarget IT Priorities 2018 survey. Others have already moved to Windows 10, but plenty are still on Windows 7 or 8.1 -- or even Windows XP in some cases.

Larger organizations in particular are still hesitant to migrate because of various concerns, most often the automatic update cadence that Microsoft introduced in Windows 10, Mangan said.

"For companies who want to control what goes on there, it means figuring that out," he said. "And every time Microsoft has a new release, there are new things."

The Microsoft Office 2019 release will run only on actively supported versions of Windows 10 with Semi-Annual Channel licenses and Windows 10 Enterprise with the Long-Term Servicing Channel 2018 license (formerly called Long-Term Servicing Branch), which comes out in October.

For Microsoft, it's a support nightmare.
Tim Manganfounder, TMurgent Technologies

The Microsoft Office 2019 release will take place in the second half of this year, and extended support for Windows 7 ends in January 2020. The short period between when Office 2019 comes out and when Windows 7 support ends -- a year and a half, at most -- may be why Microsoft decided to not support that OS and software together, Mangan said.

"You're going to have to switch [Windows 7] out so fast; why would you want to run it on that anyway?" he said. "Just bite the bullet. They're trying to let people use the old operating systems as long as those operating systems themselves are being supported, but for Microsoft, it's a support nightmare."

Microsoft Office 2019
Microsoft Office 2019 interface

Perpetual no more?

Others viewed Microsoft's decision as a harbinger of an Office 365-only world.

Microsoft also changed its support model for the Microsoft Office 2019 release, offering five years of mainstream support and just two years of extended support, instead of the usual five. The company did not say whether it will offer another version of the suite after the Microsoft Office 2019 release.

"Read the tea leaves everyone: that's it for Office without a subscription," said Jon Hassell, a freelance technical writer and consultant in Charlotte, N.C., on Twitter.

Announcing Office 2019

The goal of the support changes is to ensure that Microsoft software gets updates at a more modern pace to address continuous security, the company said.

"Microsoft definitely wants people to subscribe, and that's the future of how they want people to consume Windows," Mangan said. "They seem to for now at least be supporting the folks that want to stick with the perpetual [Office] license."

Additionally, Microsoft said it will no longer support Office 365 ProPlus for organizations on Windows 8.1 or older, or Windows Server 2016 or older, starting in January 2020. The company also extended support for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions 1607, 1703 and 1709 by another six months.

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