Expect Microsoft to extend support for Office for Mac 2011

Likely the result of Microsoft's decision to launch the next edition of Office for the Mac in the second half of 2015

Microsoft's decision to launch the next edition of Office for the Mac in the second half of 2015 will likely result in the company extending support for the four-year-old Office for Mac 2011.

On Friday, Microsoft revealed a very general timetable for the next Office for Mac, saying it would offer a public beta in the first half of next year, followed by a final release in the second half.

That will put customers using the current Office for Mac 2011 in a pinch, as support for that edition is to cease in less than 14 months, perhaps within weeks of the debut of its replacement. According to the support schedule now on Microsoft's books, the firm will deliver the last security updates -- patches for vulnerabilities in the Office applications -- on Jan. 12, 2016.

A several-month-long migration window won't be sufficient for companies that have adopted Office for the Mac, whether they've acquired the suite through the subscription-based Office 365 or by purchasing perpetual licenses.

Rather than put customers between the rock of a soon-to-be-retired Office and the hard place of vulnerable applications, Microsoft will probably do what it did in 2009: Extend support.

Five years ago, Microsoft gave Office for Mac 2004 a 27-month support reprieve after it had pulled Visual Basic-based macros from the 2008 edition but recanted and restored the functionality to Office for Mac 2011. Rather than retire Office for Mac 2004 on schedule -- in October 2009 -- it gave users of that suite until January 2012 to migrate, expecting them to skip 2008 and upgrade to 2011 so they could continue to use Visual Basic macros.

Office for Mac 2011 debuted in October 2010, so users had two years to make the move from the 2004 edition. If Microsoft is as generous with support this time around, it will reset Office for Mac 2011's retirement to early 2018.

As of Saturday, Microsoft's support lifecycle page still showed a Jan. 12, 2016, support deadline.

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