Microsoft Office to Lack Native Apple Silicon Support at First

Microsoft Office logo
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Apple’s new Silicon-based laptops are gearing up to be genuinely exciting, more powerful additions to the Apple lineup, but there’s a catch that’s got some Apple fans worried: program compatibility. Because Apple Silicon uses a unique new architecture, apps built for previous chips aren’t always going to have native support for Silicon MacBooks. Apple’s got emulation-based workarounds for everything from games to productivity favorites, but whether Microsoft Office will have native support has been plaguing prospective buyers ever since Apple Silicon was announced. Now, Microsoft’s got the answer: eventually.

In a new post on the Microsoft Office support website, Microsoft explained today that while it is working on a version of Office that will "natively support both Apple Silicon and Intel chipsets within the same executable," that version’s not going to be available on Apple Silicon laptops at launch. Instead, the Office Suite will rely on Apple’s Rosetta 2 emulation to run the Intel version of the software on Apple Silicon. Microsoft suggests updating to the November 2020 Office release for the best experience, though it doesn’t seem necessary just to run the programs themselves.

"There are no features differences," Microsoft stresses, but that doesn’t mean the emulation is perfect. The downside here is that, as Microsoft puts it, "the first launch of each Office app will take longer as the operating system has to generate optimized code for the Apple Silicon processor."

Specifically, you can expect to see the emulated apps "'bounce' in the dock for approximately 20 seconds"  as it is translated by Rosetta 2 when you first open them, after which "launches will be fast."

We’re also not sure how emulating Office will affect performance, even if the programs themselves will remain unchanged. Rest assured, though, that you will be able to access some version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OutLook, OneNote and OneDrive on Apple Silicon machines from day one.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.