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Current Test Users Unaffected
Microsoft released the preview version of the Loop app in March 2023. At the time, anyone with an Office 365 or Microsoft 365 license could sign up to use the app providing that their administrators allowed access in their tenant. Six months later, it appears that Microsoft is preparing to make the Loop app generally available. According to message center notification MC668811 (18 September), Microsoft plans to introduce a new service plan (Loop app with workspaces) to control access to the app.
The new service plan is being introduced to a limited number of product SKUs:
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard (SME)
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium (SME)
- Microsoft 365 E3 (enterprise)
- Microsoft 365 E5 (enterprise)
The change will roll out in late September 2023 and continue into early 2024.
No Office 365 SKUs
The interesting thing is that Microsoft is not licensing the Loop app for either the Office 365 E3 or E5 product SKUs. That’s a considerable set of enterprise accounts that technically will be unable to use the Loop app. However, Microsoft says that “Customers using the Loop app in preview … will continue to be able to create and view Loop workspaces for the immediate future.”
In other words, if your account has an Office 365 E3 or E5 license and you used the Loop app during its preview, you can keep on using your Loop workspaces (stored in Syntex repository services) until Microsoft decides restrict access to accounts with access to the new service plan at some point in the future. Licensing through the new Loop with workspaces service plan covers the creation of new workspaces. Users with other Office 365 or Microsoft 365 licenses can continue to contribute to a Loop workspace, including pages in a workspace.
Microsoft says that they will “share more information about the pricing and availability of the Loop app in the coming months.” At that point, it might be possible for users with an Office 365 or Microsoft 365 plan that doesn’t include the Loop with workspaces service plan to buy access through an add-on.
Unless they restricted access to specific users via a cloud policy, there’s no way for tenant administrators to discover the level of Loop app activity within user accounts. Unlike normal SharePoint Online sites, tenant administrators don’t have access to statistics or other information about content stored in Syntex repository services.
If you’re worried about the potential exposure to additional license upgrade costs, you could proactively disable access to the Loop app through a setting in the Microsoft 365 admin center (Figure 1).
Continued Access to App-Level Loop Components
It’s important to emphasize that the licensing requirement for the Loop app only affects the Loop app, its workspaces, pages, and components. Access to Loop components in Teams chat, Whiteboard, Word Online, or Outlook continues as before. Storage for these components is in the owner’s OneDrive for Business account. Disabling access to the Loop app in the Microsoft 365 admin center doesn’t affect app-level use of Loop components either.
Pushing to Microsoft 365
Unfortunately, restricting access to the Loop app to a small number of Microsoft 365 product SKUs is another example of Microsoft driving customers to upgrade to Microsoft 365 subscriptions. The same tactic is seen with Microsoft 365 Copilot, which is also restricted to the same set of Microsoft 365 product SKUs.
There’s no technical reason for the restriction. It’s simply a matter of Microsoft deciding to package their software in a way intended to convince customers that upgrading to a more expensive Microsoft 365 subscription is a good deal. It’s a great way for Microsoft to increase their cloud revenues.
In some cases, moving to Microsoft 365 is the right thing to do. In other circumstances, you might not get the anticipated return on your investment. It’s definitely a decision that requires careful consideration.
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