Why Microsoft was strange to bash Office 2019

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Microsoft last week took the strange step of slamming its own software, portraying Office 2019 as second-class when pitted against Office 365.

What Redmond neglected to say was that Office 2019’s inferiority stems from decisions the company itself has made about how the suite’s applications are created and serviced.

In a public relations pitch dubbed “The Twins Challenge,” Microsoft set three pairs of Millennial-aged identical twins against each other.

One twin ran an Office 2019 application, the other ran the same-named desktop app from within an Office 365 subscription. Each was asked to complete the same task, with the first finisher given the win.

Not surprisingly, the twin running the Office 365 version of Excel, PowerPoint or Word easily won the contest, wrapping up so quickly that his or her doppelganger spat lines like, “No way” or “You’re already done?”

Microsoft didn’t pretend it was a fair fight.

“While they have similar names, there’s a world of difference between ((Office 2019 and Office 365)),” Jared Spataro, an executive in the firm’s Office and Windows group, said in a post to a company blog.

“Office 365 includes fully installed Office applications … and these apps keep getting better over time, with new capabilities delivered every month.”

Meanwhile, Spataro continued, Office 2019’s applications are “frozen in time” because “they don’t ever get updated with new features.”


That’s Microsoft’s doing. In the past, Office – the one-time-purchase version that comes with a perpetual license – wasn’t deliberately crippled like this. Microsoft would occasionally issue a service pack, labeled SP1, SP2 and so on, that would deliver a limited number of new features and functionalities.

Office 2013 was the last suite to get the service pack treatment, while Office 2010 was the most recent to receive more than one.

Office 2016 did not refresh with a service pack; nor will Office 2019. Instead, Microsoft deliberately did the “freezing” that Spataro mentioned by declining to update, upgrade or refresh the applications in either suite. The perpetual license – meaning that once paid for, it can be used in perpetuity – is now serviced only with bug fixes.

Office 365 ProPlus – the subscription component composed of desktop applications like Word, Outlook and Excel – is completely different.

Microsoft continuously updates those applications with new features and functionality; enterprises can choose to receive the upgrades monthly (or at least most months) or twice each year. (Customers also receive one or more batches of bug fixes every month.)

Microsoft decided what’s in Office 2019

The twin tasked to tackle resume-centric chores with Word from Office 2019, soundly beaten three times by his brother, complained “That’s not fair.”

No kidding.

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