Microsoft today released Office 2016 for Mac to subscribers of its Office 365 rent-not-own plans, and said that standalone licenses would go on sale in September.
The Redmond, Wash. company also extended support for the precursor, Office for Mac 2011, by almost two years, giving customers more time to migrate to the newest before pulling the patch plug on the older.
Microsoft introduced Office 2016 for Mac four months ago as a preview, but today removed the under-construction signage from the suite of five applications: Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word.
"Office 365 subscribers can get the newest version of Office for Mac today," said Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft's top executive for the Office team. "All you need is an Office 365 subscription (Office 365 Home, Personal, Business, Business Premium, E3 or ProPlus), which includes the rights to use Office applications on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android devices."
Office 365 subscriptions start at $70 annually for consumers (Personal) and climb to $240 per user per year in business (Enterprise E3).
Microsoft has remained adamant that Office 365 gets first dibs on new releases -- initially, simply changes and new features that rarely, if ever, made it to the standalone-licensed editions -- but with Office 2016 on both Windows and Macs, the firm has taken that a step further, giving subscribers exclusive access months before others.
Last fall, for example, Microsoft released a preview of Outlook 2016 for OS X only for Office 365 subscribers. In March, it did the same with Office 2016 on Windows, which is to launch in the fall.
And Office 2016 for Mac will be regularly updated for Office 365 subscribers, Koenigsbauer promised: "We plan to release updates and new features for Office 365 customers at least once per quarter," he said, including the upcoming Office 2016 for Windows in that pledge.
Koenigsbauer did not mention how users running the preview of Office 2016 for Mac will get the final build. Several Computerworld staffers running the preview have not seen updates appear for their now-obsolete beta applications.
Microsoft did not disclose pricing for the individually-licensed version of Office 2016 for Mac that will ship in two months' time. Those licenses require customers to pay up front, but they are allowed to run the suite as long as they want without further fees. Current prices for a non-subscription license to Office for Mac start at $139.99 for a one-license copy of Home & Student 2011, which omits Outlook. The single-license Office & Business 2011, including Outlook, costs $219.99.
While Microsoft has been leery of Office price cuts, it's facing more pressure than ever before from free alternatives, including Apple's own iWork suite, which is free to any new Mac or iOS device owner.
As expected, Microsoft has lengthened the support timeline for Office for Mac 2011, which has long been slated for retirement on Jan. 12, 2016. But with its replacement, Office 2016 for Mac, not appearing until now -- and the non-subscription editions until September -- that left too little time for customers, especially businesses with Macs, to upgrade.
"Mainstream support for Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 is extended as shown in order to provide all customers with the standard lifecycle transition timeline," Microsoft said on its revised support lifecycle page for Office for Mac 2011. Traditionally, Microsoft policy is to support an older edition of Office for at least two years after the appearance of its successor.
The support cutoff, when Microsoft will stop issuing security patches for the suite, is now Oct. 10, 2017.