Microsoft is preparing to retire or at least deemphasize its decades old Office brand (opens in new tab) in favor of Microsoft 365 branded cloud productivity tools. Users should expect to see the changes permeate throughout the Microsoft cloud ecosystem in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, PC stalwarts using offline standalone Office suites and applications will probably not notice any difference.
The news was secreted within Microsoft’s announcement of a new Microsoft 365 app (opens in new tab) on Wednesday. On that page you will find a FAQ which helpfully spells out what is changing with regards to Microsoft 365 and Office brands, when changes will be pushed through and what it means to users of either branded products / suites. It also explains that “over the last couple years, Microsoft 365 has evolved into our flagship productivity suite,” and this is seemingly behind the decision to transition Office.com, the Office mobile app, and the Office app for Windows into Microsoft 365 branded products.
The key thing for many users of Microsoft's flagship office productivity tools, is that they are not going away. Microsoft says that “as part of Microsoft 365 you will continue to get access to apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.” Also, Office 365 subscribers in business / enterprises will not be moved to Microsoft 365 plans. Importantly to many readers, those seeking the most recent offline / perpetual Office editions will still have the opportunity to buy apps as one-time purchases via Microsoft’s Office 2021 and Office LTSC plans, too.
While the branding change is a pretty big deal, once you read all the small print, it isn’t very impactful. However, the same could be said of any branding or naming change. The most affected will be personal consumers, students, and small home offices which currently use the Microsoft 365 cloud-powered productivity platform via mobile and web-apps. Existing users of these cloud office tools won’t have to do anything; existing accounts, profiles, subscriptions, and files won’t be disrupted, even if you are accessing them from the new app with new branding and icon. In a way, the naming changes help emphasize the difference between the cloud-powered and the perpetual Office releases; with the online version highlighting collaborative tools like Teams and OneDrive being used alongside more traditional office productivity apps in the new hybrid working world.
Expect to see many of the above changes arrive with the rebranding of the unified Office app to Microsoft 365 in November, with the whole rebranding effort expected to be completed by January 2023.