The perpetually licensed version of the desktop Office apps, branded Office 2019, was released today. It's available as a one-time purchase for volume-licensed commercial customers. A consumer release will come in the next few weeks.
Office 2019 is supported on Windows 10—exclusively; no Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 support is available—and the three most-recent versions of macOS (that is, today's release of 10.14, 10.13, and 10.12).
The new Office includes updated versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. On Windows, it also includes Publisher, Access, Project, and Visio. These apps, on the other hand are all in maintenance mode: they're receiving security fixes but haven't had any feature changes. There's no 2019 version of OneNote at all; the Windows 10 UWP version of the app is now the primary version, though Office 2019 customers will still be able to install OneNote 2016 if they prefer.
The four core apps have new features, but those features aren't as new as they seem; they've been available to Office 365 subscribers already. For example, PowerPoint support for 3D models and Excel support for 2D maps is already available in Office ProPlus (the continuously-updated subscription version). Office 2019 represents a fixed snapshot of the Office 365 release; over 2019's supported lifecycle, it will receive security and stability fixes, but it won't pick up any further new features.
That supported lifecycle is shorter than one might expect. Instead of the usual five years of mainstream support and five years of extended (security) support, Microsoft is the company-only two years of extended support, for seven years in total.
Microsoft promises that Office 2019 won't be the last-ever perpetually licensed, cloud-free version of Office. However, the low-key, commercially focused release, along with the fact that it's playing catch-up with Office ProPlus, makes it clear that Office 365 is the company's big priority and focus.
Nowhere is this clearer than the installer. Office 2019 now uses an on-premises version of the Click-to-Run (C2R) installer for ProPlus, instead of a traditional MSI package. For ProPlus-using cloud customers, C2R offers convenient features, such as streaming-app installs (you can start using the apps before they've fully downloaded) and transparent, automated updating (no more Office Service Packs through Windows Update). Office 2019 will pick up some of these features; for example, it'll be used to apply security patches, and it'll be able to install a pre-patched version of the applications. The big difference is that it will be able to use on-premises sources for install files and updates, rather than hitting the cloud to do so, in keeping with the cloud-free positioning of the perpetual license.
Over the next few weeks, perpetual versions of the Office servers—Exchange Server 2019, Skype for Business Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2019, and Project Server 2019—will also be released, rounding out the on-premises software update cycle.
Listing image by Scott Robinson / Flickr