Why 'Office in the Windows Store' isn't really Microsoft Office

It’s expected that today (15 June 2017), Microsoft will release ‘Office in the Windows Store’ as a new way to buy Office.  Understand the differences between it and ‘Office 2016 for Windows’ or the Windows 10 / Modern apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

The new release is not just a different way to buy Office 2016 for Windows.  ‘Office in the Windows Store’ has some important differences and disadvantages compared to full Office 2016 desktop.

In addition, the whole thing is a ‘preview’, meaning public test of some new Microsoft technology called ‘Project Centennial’.  That alone should be enough to scare off long-time Microsoft customers who know the dangers of using Redmond v1.0 products.

Project Centennial

To understand this new Office, start with Project Centennial.  This is a software ‘bridge’ to allow Windows developers more quickly move their 32-bit Windows programs to the Windows 10 app system (UWP or Universal Windows Platform).

Windows UWP apps can be sold in the Windows Store.  That could mean more sales for the developer and lets Microsoft get a percentage of each sale.

Microsoft has a hard time getting developers to make Windows UWP apps for Windows 8 or 10.  They hope that ‘Centennial’ will make a difference to the very slow adoption rate.

What is ‘Office in the Windows Store’?

‘Office in the Windows Store’ uses ‘Centennial’ to make Windows 10 app versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and Publisher.

These UWP apps are conversions of the current Office 2016 for Windows desktop programs.

They are bought, downloaded, installed and updated through the Windows Store system.

What’s the difference?

There are some key differences between Office for Windows desktop and the ‘Windows Store’ releases.

Office in the Windows Store:

  • 32-bit software only
  • No COM add-ins if running Windows 10S
  • No OneNote

Call us cynical, but we expect there to be other ‘gotchas’ that will be revealed as the apps go into general use.

Who can get Office in the Windows Store?

Office 365 Personal, Office 365 Home, Office 365 for Education Plus and Education E5 customers can use the Office in the Windows Store preview.

Outlook, Access and Publisher won’t be available during the preview for Education customers.

When the preview is over Office Home & Student 2016 and Office Home & Business 2016 customers will get access to the new Office variant.

It’s not available for Office 365 Business plans or volume licences. Those customers are expected to pay for an update from Windows 10S to Pro.  Microsoft says they’ll extend ‘Office in the Windows Store’ to Business customers in 2018.

What about OneNote?

There is no ‘OneNote in the Windows Store’.  If you buy ‘Office in the Windows Store’ you’ll get the OneNote app for Windows 10 – not a ‘Centennial’ conversion of OneNote 2016 for Windows desktop.

Why is Microsoft doing this?

In the short term, it’s happening because of Windows 10S.  10S is a new, cheaper, version of Windows 10 which doesn’t run traditional desktop programs.  Windows 10S will be sold in upcoming Surface devices aimed at the education market.

Microsoft’s eventual aim is to have no desktop programs on Windows at all.  Everything, especially Office, will be a UWP app.

What about the current Win10 apps for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote?

These apps will continue to be available.  Reportedly, Microsoft is going to rebrand them as ‘Mobile’ applications.

The current Office apps for Windows 10 were created, from the start, as UWP apps.  The same apps work on all Windows 10 devices, including computers, tablets and phones.

Should I use ‘Office in the Windows Store’?

No, not unless you really must.  Meaning you have Windows 10S and need more features than the current Win10 UWP apps have.

‘Office in the Windows Store’ is TWO tests in one.

It’s a large scale public test of the Centennial project which underlies the whole ‘Office in the Windows Store’ concept.

And it’s a test of the individual converted programs for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook etc.

Maybe ‘Office in the Windows Store’ will be ready for daily use.  Microsoft’s hype is the ‘Office in Windows Store’ will work just like Office 2016 for desktop.  Maybe it will, after a few more versions and people have been Microsoft’s guinea pigs.

Hopefully, we’ll be wrong and the new Office will be stable and workable from Day One.  Microsoft’s past track record (detailed in Office Watch over two decades) doesn’t give us a lot of confidence.

Customer confusion ahead

The whole thing is a marketing and support mess, at least in the short term.  We now have yet another new version of Office which is hard to distinguish from similar offerings.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t understand all the variations of Office.  We’ve seen Microsoft execs get mixed up over Office variations and labels.

Yes, this means there’s yet another version of ‘Outlook’ and a fourth Outlook 2016.

‘Office in the Windows Store’ makes sense for Microsoft’s medium and long terms plans.  Right now it’s going to confuse the heck out of many people.  Microsoft’s own Support people won’t be looking forward to this either as they try to figure out exactly which type of ‘Office’ a customer has.

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