R.I.P. Office 365, Long Live Microsoft 365

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R.I.P. Office 365, Long Live Microsoft 365

Microsoft just made sweeping changes to the Office 365 ecosystem, both for personal subscriptions (Office 365 Personal and Home) and Office 365 for Business, sunsetting the Office 365 brand and replacing it with Microsoft 365. This was put in place as of April 21, 2020.

This article will look at what these changes mean, explore the differences between Office 365, Microsoft 365 and Office 2019 and the subscription model underlying these offerings as well as make some predictions for the enterprise services that are still under the Office 365 name.

Office 365 Home and Personal

Let’s start with the home and family subscriptions. Over 500 million people use the free, web-based versions of Word, Excel etc. along with Skype and OneDrive to collaborate and connect. Then there are 38 million people who have subscribed to Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal. Both provide the desktop Office suite (Word, Excel etc.) for Windows and Mac, along with matching applications for iOS and Android and 1 TB of OneDrive space. These two plans are changing name to Microsoft 365 Personal ($6.99 per month) and Microsoft 365 Family ($9.99 per month) respectively. Personal is for a single user whereas Family works with up to six people (and yes, they each get 1 TB of OneDrive storage for a maximum of 6TB). Otherwise, they’re identical and provide advanced spelling, grammar and style assistance in Microsoft Editor (see below), AI-powered suggestions for design in PowerPoint, coaching when you rehearse a PowerPoint presentation and the new Money in Excel (see below). Each user also gets 50 GB of email storage in Outlook, the ability to add a custom email domain and 60 minutes worth of Skype calls to mobiles and landlines.

Office 365 Microsoft 365 Plan Choices

Picking a plan for home use is easy

Microsoft Editor is Microsoft’s answer to Grammarly and is available in Word on the web, and the desktop Word version, along with Outlook.com as well as an Edge or Chrome extension. It supports more than 20 languages and uses AI to help you with the spelling, grammar, and style of your writing. The basic version is available to anyone, but the advanced features are unlocked with a Personal or Family subscription. These include suggestions for how to write something more clearly (just highlight your original sentence), plagiarism checking and the ability to easily insert citations and suggestions for improving conciseness and inclusiveness.

Settings for the Microsoft Editor browser extension

Settings for the Microsoft Editor browser extension

Money in Excel connects Excel to your bank and credit card accounts so you can import balances and transactions automatically and provides personalized insights on your spending habits. Money isn’t available yet and will be US only in the first phase when it rolls out over the next couple of months.

Outlook on the web will let you add personal calendars, not only marrying your work and home life but also providing clarity for others seeking to find appointment times with you – of course, they won’t see what’s penned in your calendars, only when you’re not available. Play My Emails is coming to Android (already available on iOS), letting Cortana read your emails to you while you’re on the go. The Teams mobile app is being beefed up for use in your personal life as well. Finally, Microsoft Family Safety is coming to Android and iOS devices, helping parents protect their children when they explore and play games on their devices.

You’ll have noticed that nearly all of these new features and services are on the horizon but not here yet. If you’re already an Office 365 Home or Personal subscriber your subscription just changed its name to Microsoft 365 Family or Personal but nothing else changed and until these new goodies are available – nothing has changed, including the price of your subscription. Note that none of these changes applies to the perpetual licenses Office 2019 which is Word, Excel etc. that you can purchase (not subscribe to) and that Office 2019 doesn’t provide any cloud-powered, AI-based features, nor gets the monthly feature updates that its Office 365 based cousin enjoys.

Microsoft 365 Business Basic, Apps, Standard and Premium

Of more interest to readers of Altaro’s blogs are probably the changes to the Office 365 SMB plans (that top out at 300 users). As a quick summary, (for a more in-depth look at Office & Microsoft 365, here’s a free eBook from Altaro) Microsoft 365 Business Basic (formerly known as Office 365 Business Essentials at $5 per user per month) gives each user an Exchange mailbox, Teams and SharePoint access, the web browser versions of Word, Excel etc. and 1TB of OneDrive storage.

Microsoft 365 Apps for Business (old name Office 365 Business, $8.25 per user per month) provides the desktop version of Office for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices and 1TB of OneDrive storage.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard (prior name Office 365 Business Premium which is a name change that won’t confuse anyone weighs in at $12.50 per user per month) gives you both the desktop and web versions of Office.

Finally, Microsoft 365 Business Premium (formerly known as Microsoft 365 Business, again not confusing at all, at $20 per user per month) gives you everything in Standard, plus Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, Intune based Mobile Device Management (MDM) features, Online Archiving in Exchange and much more.

Microsoft 365 Management Portal

Microsoft 365 Management Portal

In a separate announcement, Microsoft is bringing the full power of AAD Premium P1 for free to Microsoft 365 Business Premium. This will give SMBs cost-effective access to Cloud App Discovery which provides insight and protection for users in the modern world of cloud services, including discovering which applications your staff are using. It’ll also bring Application Proxy to be able to publish on-premises applications to remote workers easily and securely, dynamic groups make it easier to make sure staff are in the right groups for their role, and password-less authentication using Windows Hello for Business, FIDO 2 security keys and Microsoft’s free authenticator app.

Note that none of the Enterprise flavors of Office 365, E1, E3 and E5, F1 for first-line workers, the A1, A3 and A5 for education, nor the G1, G3 and G5 varieties for government organizations are changing at this time. My prediction is that this will change and before long, all of these will be moved to the unifying Microsoft brand.

Philosophically there are a few things going on here. As a consultant who both sells and supports Office / Microsoft 365 to businesses, as well as a trainer who teaches people about the services, there’s always been a pretty clear line between the two. Office 365 gives you the Office applications, email and document storage. If you wanted mobile device management (Intune), advanced security features (Azure Active Directory, AAD), Windows 10 Enterprise and Information Protection you went for Microsoft 365. These features are all available under the moniker Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) so essentially Microsoft 365 was Office 365 + EMS.

Adding Microsoft 365 Licenses

Adding Microsoft 365 licenses

This line is now being blurred for the small business plans which can make it even more difficult to make sure that small and medium businesses pick the right plans for their needs. Remember though that you can mix and match the different flavors in business, just because some users need Microsoft 365 Business Premium doesn’t mean that other roles in your business can’t work well with just Microsoft 365 Business Basic.

And this isn’t a surprise move, even Office 365 administrators have been using the Microsoft 365 management portal for quite some time, here’s a screenshot of the old, retired Office 365 portal.

Office 365 Admin Center

Office 365 Admin Center

More broadly though I think the brand changes are signalling that Office 365 is “growing up” and using the same name across the home user stack as well as the SMB stack (with the Enterprise SKUs to follow) provides a more homogenous offering.

Just as with the name changes to the personal plans there’s nothing for IT administrators to do at this stage, the plans will seamlessly change names but all functionality remains the same (including the lack of long term Office 365 backup, something that Altaro has a remedy for).

Altaro Office 365 Backup
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