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Microsoft announces Office 2021, Office LTSC

Microsoft will launch two versions of Office for those who don't want Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Office 2021 and Office LTSC will be available in the second half of the year.

Microsoft has scheduled the release of Office 2021 and a new version of Office Long Term Servicing Channel for this year. The company has aimed the products at businesses that do not want to use the cloud-based equivalent, Microsoft 365.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, announced in a blog post that the products were coming for Windows and Mac. Office LTSC is intended for the enterprise, while Office 2021 is for personal and small business use.

Both products will be released in the second half of the year and will receive five years of support from Microsoft. A preview of Office LTSC will be available in April.

Office LTSC fulfills a niche role, Spataro said. Microsoft designed it to work on devices that companies don't often update. The hardware is often on manufacturing floors or in organizations that have to follow government regulations on updates. Microsoft said most businesses that use Office LTSC likely won't adopt it across their entire organizations, but only in specific circumstances.

Microsoft said Office LTSC will feature dark mode support and performance and accessibility improvements for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. The product will not ship with Skype for Business but will include Microsoft Teams. Skype will still be available for download.

Enterprise customers using Office LTSC will be charged more for this release. Microsoft is increasing the price of Office Professional Plus, Office Standard and the individual apps by up to 10%.

Microsoft Office
Microsoft plans to launch updated Office apps for non-cloud users this year.

Microsoft is timing the Office LTSC launch to coincide with the next Windows 10 LTSC, a Windows version covering the same use cases.

The company provided few specifics for Office 2021, except that it will not be changing its price. Microsoft said it would announce details as the release date nears.

Despite releasing these products, Microsoft's focus is on the cloud, Spataro said.

"Some of our customers need to enable a limited set of locked-in-time scenarios," he said. "These updates reflect our commitment to helping them meet this need."

Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Metrigy, said he expects significant demand for Office LTHC. He said that after the recent cyber attack on a Florida city's water supply, many organizations will reevaluate security and rethink running older, less secure software. The water treatment facility computer was running Windows 7, which Microsoft no longer supports.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has recommended updating software and operating systems. That should "drive companies to accelerate audits and upgrade investments," Lazar said.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering end-user computing topics such as desktop management. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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