Office 2016, Office 365, and October 2020


Update: On September 6, Microsoft included a note in their “Helping customers shift to a modern desktop announcement” to say that they are extending Office 2016 support to October 2023. They say:

“We are modifying the Office 365 services system requirements related to service connectivity. In February, we announced that starting October 13, 2020, customers will need Office 365 ProPlus or Office 2019 clients in mainstream support to connect to Office 365 services. To give you more time to transition fully to the cloud, we are now modifying that policy and will continue to support Office 2016 connections with the Office 365 services through October 2023.”

I guess pressure from users helped Microsoft make the right decision…

Confusion Reigns

Microsoft statement that “Effective October 13th, 2020, Office 365 will only allow Office client connectivity from subscription clients (Office 365 ProPlus) or Office perpetual clients within mainstream support to connect to Office 365 services” in a post covering system connectivity for Office 365 is causing some concern and confusion in the user community. The same statement is made in System requirements for Office (365).

The problem is the word “allow” as it implies that Microsoft will deploy a block within Office 365 to prevent older clients from connecting to services like Exchange Online. As it happens, Office 2016 exits mainstream support on the same day, which then implies that the perpetual-use version of Outlook 2016 would be blocked.

Please Use Office ProPlus

Microsoft is certainly very keen that customers use up-to-date clients when they connect to Office 365. Their view is straightforward: online services are designed to be used with the latest clients and can’t be guaranteed to work as well with older clients. New features won’t surface in the older clients and the older clients don’t support newer protocols. We see this too in the recent announcement sent to Office 365 customers to inform them that a new UI is coming for Outlook for Windows (Office 365 roadmap 26542), but only the click to run version. The new UI features:

  • A simplified ribbon: Users will have the option to collapse the ribbon into a single row of most commonly used commands. The ribbon will also be customizable where users can pin and remove commands from the ribbon based on their preferences and expand the ribbon back to the multi-layered, classic ribbon at any time. -Additional user experience updates to the folder pane, message list, message, and calendar read/compose screens. The updates include typographical, alignment and use of text color to simplify the experience, making it easier to use and more efficient for customers.

All in all, Microsoft would very much like Office 365 tenants to use the click to run version of Office, or Office 365 ProPlus.

The Message to Partners

Partners who attended Microsoft’s Inspire conference in Las Vegas in July 2018 received the message that ProPlus or Office 2019 is needed to connect to Office 365 after October 2020. The slide shown below has appeared in several LinkedIn posts that I have seen, accompanied in one case by a note that the Microsoft speaker spent about ten seconds reviewing the change.

Microsoft slide shared with partners at the Inspire conference in July 2018

Customers Have Older Software

In many cases, Office 365 customers have many older clients deployed and might not see the logic of paying Microsoft more money for a higher-priced Office 365 plan that includes the Office clients when they have a perfectly good version of Office 2013 or Office 2016 installed on their desktops. If these customers don’t use the new features exposed in the click to run version (like the Encrypt Only feature in Outlook 2016), then why update?

This is a dance that’s been going on for years. Microsoft brings out a new version of Office roughly every three years and promptly tries to convince customers to upgrade. Some do, some don’t. More update quicker these days because of the click to run version, but there’s still people clinging on to their favorite old version of Office.

Support Rules

In any case, the word “allow” actually means “support,” or so we hear from sources within Microsoft. In other words, you’ll still be able to connect an older Office client to Office 365 after October 13, 2020, but if you run into problems you shouldn’t expect any sympathy or support from Microsoft.

There’s no word yet when Microsoft will change the wording of their statement. I expect them to because of the obvious confusion it has caused, but we shall have to wait and see.

This is the kind of stuff that we follow assiduously in Office 365 for IT Pros. Read all about Office 365 clients in Chapter 10. We’ll keep that chapter updated as this topic evolves.

4 Replies to “Office 2016, Office 365, and October 2020”

    1. Not right now. Things are in motion and I’d prefer to wait for Microsoft to clarify the position.

    1. For older clients? Microsoft said “To give you more time to transition fully to the cloud, we are now modifying that policy and will continue to support Office 2016 connections with the Office 365 services through October 2023.” Clients older than Office 2016 will be allowed to connect but won’t be supported. At least, that was the latest I heard.

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