Microsoft last week released to corporate customers a preview of the next pay-once, perpetual license version of its Office suite.

The application bundle — by far the productivity standard in business — came with a mouth-twisting name change: Office LTSC Professional Plus 2021. As it did in February when it revealed some information about the successor to Office 2019, Microsoft again argued that the new suite is a limited-use option for enterprises.

“The next perpetual version of Office for commercial customers is built specifically for organizations running regulated devices that cannot accept feature updates for years at a time, process control devices that are not connected to the Internet in manufacturing facilities, and specialty systems that must stay locked in time and require a long-term servicing channel,” the Microsoft 365 team wrote in an April 22 post to a company blog.

Microsoft saddled the corporate perpetual license with LTSC, for Long-term Support Channel, to tie Office to Windows 10 LTSC, which has long been begrudged by Microsoft as perhaps a necessary option, but one it’s not keen to offer.

Essentially, Microsoft is only making plainer its preference for subscription-based Office — sold in Office 365 and Microsoft 365 plans — over an all-on-premises productivity ecosystem, of which Office LTSC will be a cornerstone (and which Office 2019 serves as now).

On Windows, the preview can be installed only via enterprise tools, including the Office Deployment Tool (ODT), available as a download from Microsoft, and the Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager. The preview of Office LTSC Professional Plus 2021 must, like production-grade editions, be activated; Microsoft has provided instructions for using ODT and Configuration Manager, as well as the necessary keys, in this support document.

The Mac preview can be installed using the standard installer package file (in PKG format), although a second file must be downloaded to activate the preview.

Both the Windows and Mac previews will work normally until Jan. 17, 2022. After that date, the suites will go into “reduced functionality mode” which will allow users to only read and print documents. It will not be possible to create new documents or edit existing ones with the reduced applications.

As with previous versions of Office, the next single-payment suite will include a subset of the features and functionality available to users running the same applications under an Office or Microsoft 365 subscription. Only a handful of the perks added to those plans’ applications will be promoted to Office LTSC and/or Office 2021 for Mac, the nameplate of the macOS edition. Microsoft has highlighted only a few of those new features, which included a line-by-line focus in Word and the new XLOOKUP function in Excel.

Office LTSC’s feature set is, well, set in stone when it releases. Unlike the apps provided by an Office or Microsoft 365 subscription, Office LTSC (or Office 2021 for Mac) are updated with security and other bug fixes only. “Keep in mind that after Office LTSC is released, Office LTSC won’t receive any new features,” Microsoft warned.

Microsoft has not yet set a date for the launch of Office LTSC/Office 2021 for Mac; it has only narrowed the target to “later this year.”

The Redmond, Wash. developer will also issue a one-time-purchase, perpetual license version of Office for consumers and small businesses. The suite, available for both Windows and macOS, will be named Office 2021. Like Office LTCS, this version will be released later this year. However, it will not be previewed, Microsoft said.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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