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Changes to Microsoft Office licenses rub IT the wrong way

Business versions of Skype, OneDrive and Outlook won't be part of on-premises Microsoft Office licenses, leaving those shops looking for alternatives.

Changes to the software included in perpetual Microsoft Office licenses could push some organizations to use competing products.

Starting Oct. 13, 2020, organizations with Office 2010, 2013 and 2016 will not be able to access business versions of Microsoft Outlook, Skype or OneDrive. Those services will require an Office 365 subscription, which raises cost and cloud access concerns among IT professionals.

"I fear this move on Microsoft's part may cost them some small-business customers," said Logan Rosenstiel, systems administrator at Rivermark Community Credit Union in Beaverton, Ore., which uses Office 2013.

One such customer is California's Bear Valley Community Healthcare District, which runs Office 2007 and 2010.

"They're going to lose me," said IT director Jon Booth.

'I don't trust them'

Over time, subscriptions to Office 365 are more expensive than one-time Microsoft Office licenses, and that is what many smaller organizations want to avoid, Booth said. Most of all, the lack of options doesn't sit well. Microsoft is taking a "my-way-or-the-highway" approach to this change when, in the past, the company has been more flexible, Booth said.

They're going to lose me.
Jon BoothIT director, Bear Valley Community Healthcare District

"They are trying to force people out of their comfort zone," he said. "Microsoft is making it easier and easier to make the switch [to competing products]."

Bear Valley planned to buy Office 2016 and even included it in this year's IT budget, but Booth said he is now hesitant to move forward with the purchase.

"Microsoft is becoming less of an innovator and more of an accounting firm," Booth said. "They make moves to make them the most money. I don't trust them right now, and I was a big supporter for a long time."

Booth said he is considering switching from Office to Apache OpenOffice or Google G Suite. Other holders of perpetual Microsoft Office licenses will face the same choice.

"Over the next three years, SMBs that use stand-alone apps, if they know they will have to go to cloud, might decide to move on and implement an alternative platform like Google G Suite," said Jack Narcotta, analyst at Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H. 

Concerns about cloud are an issue, however. Some organizations don't want to be forced to make continuous payments to access their own data, Rosenstiel said.

"Many small businesses I've worked with have resisted the move to cloud services, as they fear having their data held hostage," he said.

What's the point?

By adopting Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, organizations receive security patches, new features and other Office updates as soon as they're available. Office 365 customers will also receive two large updates a year in March and September, similar to the way Windows 10 updates work.

This approach is better than what typically goes on in organizations that don't have a vigilant IT staff to consistently update apps, Narcotta said.

Additionally, Microsoft will likely offer a migration path for on-premises Office shops to move to the cloud, said Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Microsoft partner in Westborough, Mass.

"I also expect future versions of Outlook, Skype for Business and OneDrive for Business will be thinner, [meaning] less on the desktop and more running in the cloud," he said.

Next Steps

Compare Office 2016 with Office 365

How to migrate to Office 365

How Apps for Work stacks up against Office 365

Dig Deeper on Enterprise software