Office 2016 'perpetual' customers get shafted, but not yet

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Microsoft has announced reductions in service for customers who bought the ‘perpetual licence’ or one-off version of Office 2016 for Windows.


Some commentators are calling it a ‘veiled’ attempt by Microsoft to switch customers from the single-payment purchase to the annual ‘subscription’ system.  The move is certainly aimed to do that but it’s hardly ‘veiled’.

It’s ‘veiled’ only if the veil is wrapped around a brick.  The purpose is clear and part of Redmond’s ongoing strategy to move customers to annual payments for Office.


As usual the headlines don’t tell the whole story.  Let’s try to clear up the situation, starting with the effective date.

13 October 2020

All the changes will happen in over three years from now.

There’ll be another summer Olympics and nearly the next US Presidential election before the changes kick in.

13 October 2020 is the date when Office 2016 for Windows will end its ‘mainstream support’ period.

As we’ll see later, this announcement should have been made in September 2015 – almost a 18 months ago.

Office ‘perpetual’

This applies to any business users who have purchased Office licences with a ‘one-off’ payment rather than an annual subscription plan.

Microsoft is using the term Office ‘perpetual’ which is a little strange because the term ‘perpetual’ isn’t used in any of Redmond’s own product listings.  But it’s meaning is clear – anyone who has bought Office with a single payment rather than an annual fee.

Microsoft is saying that if you buy Office licences under the ‘old’ single payment system, you’ll only get access to the related cloud services while mainstream support is available for that software.

Mainstream Support is usually available for five years after a product is released.  Until now mainstream support meant access to feature (non-security) updates, security updates and regular support.  Now ‘Mainstream’ support also includes access to business cloud services.

Business customers only

The change involves the disconnection of Office ‘perpetual’ licenced software from Microsoft’s cloud services for business – meaning Skype for Business and OneDrive for Business.

Note the ‘for Business’ part.  After 13 Oct 2020 the Office software will be able to use standard Skype and OneDrive – just not the integrated business versions of the software.

Not Consumer version of Office

If you’ve bought the consumer version Office 2016 (or Office 2013 or Office 2010) perpetual licence none of this applies to you.

You’ll be able to use Skype and OneDrive as usual, before and after October 2020.

After 13 October 2020 there’ll be no more software updates, only security patches.  But Microsoft isn’t giving much to Office 2016 perpetual licence buyers now – anything new or changed is usually for Office 365 subscribers only.

What it means

Business customers now have another factor to consider when choosing between buying Office licences as a subscription or a single-payment.

Bait and Switch

Has Microsoft changed the purchase terms after the sale is made – absolutely yes. Affected Office customers are right and entitled to feel aggrieved by this change.

Until now there was no suggestion that the cloud services were time limited for perpetual licence buyers.

Microsoft should have updated their definition of ‘mainstream support’ when they started selling Office products with cloud services included.  Instead they’ve chosen to wait until most of the ‘perpetual’ sales have been made (in the year+ after Office 2016 has been released) and now ‘moves the goalposts’.

Redmond wants us to be grateful for giving three years notice of the change.  They deserve criticism for not telling customers at the time of purchase, starting in Sept 2015.


Microsoft is unsubtle about their preference for customers to pay every year.  The big unknown is what Microsoft will give customers for that annual tribute.  What you get can and does change at Microsoft’s whim, like when Microsoft changed the OneDrive storage from unlimited to 1TB.

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