Microsoft sets perpetual-licence Office 2021 prices, reveals new feature list

Microsoft sets perpetual-licence Office 2021 prices, reveals new feature list

Office 2021, which is aimed at consumers and very small businesses, launches on 5 October. It's offered in two versions: Office Home and Student 2021 and Office Home and Business 2021.

Jared Spataro (Microsoft)

Jared Spataro (Microsoft)

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has revealed the pricing of its perpetual-licence versions of Office 2021 and listed the features and functionalities it lifted from Office 365 and dropped into the new pay-for-once suite.

Office 2021 -- which Redmond will aim at consumers and very small businesses -- is slated to launch Tuesday 5 October. Last month, Microsoft debuted Office LTSC 2021, the acronym standing for "Long-Term Support Channel," as the perpetual-license Office for commercial and government customers. Unlike Office 2021, Office LTSC 2021 is not sold retail but is available only through volume licensing.

The new Office comes in two SKUs: Office Home and Student 2021 and Office Home and Business 2021. The former includes Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, Teams and Word; the latter adds Outlook to the mix.

By Microsoft's licensing terms, only Home and Business can be used for business purposes. Each SKU comes in editions for either Windows (Windows 10 or 11) or macOS (the three most-recent versions) and can be run on only one device.

Office Home and Student 2021 will sell for (US)$150, while Office Home and Business 2021 will cost $250.

Those prices were identical to the full list prices of the same-named Office 2019 SKUs, the perpetual license versions that launched in late 2018. Microsoft had previously said it would not raise prices for these editions.

Office Home and Student 2021 and Office Home and Business 2021 will be supported for only five years, half the historical decade that earlier Microsoft-branded suites received. Although Microsoft has not yet confirmed the date, Computerworld expects that support will cease Oct. 13, 2026.

That date will give customers an opportunity to shave spending by skipping an upgrade. Because of the vagaries of Microsoft's support for the perpetual license Office, both Office 2016 and 2019 -- the two newest editions -- exit support in October 2025, or just a year before Redmond retires Office 2021.

Rather than refresh to the new Office 2021, those customers may choose to wait until the next iteration, which will likely to pegged as Office 2024 or Office 2025 but released in the fall of 2024. Although Microsoft's numbering of Office 2021 departed from its usual practice, the company has long been on a three-year release cycle. There's no indication that will change.

Agile operations -- as the very small shops buying Office Home and Business 2021 are virtually by definition -- should be able to transition from Office 2016 or 2019 to Office 2024/2025 in the 24 months available.

Credit: Microsoft

Welcome to second class, everyone!

Microsoft has made it a habit to disparage its perpetual-license Office whenever it mentions the suite, preferring to laud the subscription alternative, Office 365 or the even more expensive (and expansive) Microsoft 365.

So it went last week.

"Microsoft 365 is the best way to get access to the latest apps and features that help you stay productive, protected, and connected," wrote Liat Ben-Zur, corporate vice president, modern life, search, and devices, in the second paragraph of a post to a company blog (before any detail about Office 2021). "However, we know some customers still prefer a non-subscription version of the core Office apps for PC and Mac, which is why we're releasing Office 2021."

Microsoft has put its thumb on the scales for years, notably in February 2019 when it lampooned Office 2019 in a PR pitch for lack of features when the company itself had decided to limit what the perpetual-license version received of the new and shiny.

Frankly, the tactic is getting old.

Microsoft comes across as aggrieved that it still has to offer an alternative to subscriptions when it constantly reminds perspective buyers that their perpetual-licence choice doesn't have this or won't do that, while Office 365 does and will.

Yet Microsoft has pledged to do at least one more perpetual-licence Office. In February, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, said, "I'm happy to confirm our commitment to another release in the future."

For a list of what Microsoft deigned to add to Office 2021 from the superset of Office 365, check out this support document.

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