Did you know? Mac Office 2011 support conks out on Oct. 10

End of support is sneaking up on enterprise employees running Office on a Mac

Companies that have employees running Office for Mac 2011 have just over 100 days to replace the suite's applications with those from last year's upgrade, Office for Mac 2016.

Support ends for Office for Mac 2011 on Oct. 10, a date that Microsoft first stamped on the calendar two years ago, but has not widely publicized since. As of that date, the Redmond, Wash. developer will cease supplying patches for security vulnerabilities or fixes for other bugs.

The individual applications -- Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Word -- will continue to operate after support ends, but companies will be taking a risk, however small, that malware exploiting an unpatched flaw will surface and compromise systems.

To receive security and non-security updates after Oct. 10, IT administrators must deploy Office for Mac 2016 or instruct workers covered by Office 365 to download and install the newer suite's applications from the subscription service's portal.

Office for Mac 2011's end-of-support deadline was originally slated for January 2016, approximately five years after the productivity package's release. But in the summer of 2015, when it was clear that 2011's successor would not be ready by early 2016, Microsoft extended its lifespan by 21 months. At the time, Microsoft cited the long-standing policy of supporting a to-be-retired product for "2 years after the successor product is released" when it added time to 2011.

Mac users: Steerage Class

The impending cutoff for Office for Mac 2011 is an issue only because Microsoft shortchanges Office for Mac users. Unlike the Windows version of Office, which receives 10 years of security support, those that run on macOS are allotted half that. Microsoft has repeatedly classified Office for Mac as a consumer product to justify the half-measure, even for the edition labeled "Home and Business."

Nor does Microsoft update and service Office for Mac for corporate customers as it does the far more popular Windows SKU (stock-keeping unit). The latter will be upgraded with new features, Microsoft said in April, twice each year for enterprise subscribers to Office 365 ProPlus, with each release supported for 18 months before giving way to a pair of successors.

Mac editions, however, are refreshed with new tools at irregular intervals, often long after the same feature debuts in the same Windows application. (Recently, for example, Microsoft added a delivery-and/or-read receipt option to the Mac version of Outlook; that functionality has been in Outlook on Windows since 2013.) And because there are no regular, large-scale feature upgrades to Office for Mac, support is not curtailed by the release schedule as with Windows.

The difference between Offices -- the behemoth Windows on one side, the niche Mac on the other -- has been put into even starker relief recently: Microsoft has adopted March and September dates for launching new upgrades to Windows 10, Office 365 ProPlus, and last week, Windows Server, but made no similar promises for Office for Mac 2016.

It's clearly the odd app out.

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