On April 21, 2020, Microsoft is rebranding and making changes to its subscription bundle. Specifically, Office 365 becomes Microsoft 365!
I know what you are thinking: Isn’t Office 365 also Microsoft Office 365? So, has Microsoft just removed Office from the bundle since it is now only Microsoft 365? What happened to the Office? Where did it go? I use Office. What am I supposed to use now? Shouldn’t this have happened on April Fool’s Day instead of April 21st? You are kidding, right?
Unfortunately, I am not.
This rebranding is Microsoft’s attempt to increase users by offering a “subscription service for your life” – a la Amazon Prime. Microsoft 365 will come in a few different shapes and sizes but will essentially cost $6.99 per month for a single user, or a $9.99 family plan for a six-user pack. Office applications, like Word, Excel, etc., will be included and available on multiple platforms like Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Over time, Microsoft will add more functions and applications to Microsoft 365 (presumably without additional cost).
So, is this service just for home use? Not really. Microsoft also has a 365 offering for businesses, but they are licensed differently e.g. as E1, E3, and E5, and have been around since 2017.
In announcing this new service Microsoft wrote that Microsoft 365 will offer “new artificial intelligence (AI), rich content and templates, and cloud-powered experiences.” Later, we should also expect to see Teams (the video conferencing and collaboration tool that has taken off due to the remote working mandates), as well as security enhancements like 2FA and encryption. These features are already available in the enterprise version. Other options from vendors like Adobe and even Headspace (the meditation app) are to be expected later in this new offering.
Since this is a “family” offering, a change to Outlook is being contemplated such that you can link your professional and personal calendars in one place, and still keep privacy around personal details. This could be useful.
For storage, it gets a little complicated. If you have a free Microsoft account, you are entitled to 5GB of storage on OneDrive. If you sign up for Microsoft 365, you get 1TB of OneDrive space, and you can password protect and share links. With a Microsoft account, you also get free access to Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on the web, which are official online versions of the desktop apps, plus Word, Excel and PowerPoint on mobile devices. Outlook for mobile is free to everyone on any device. That free package may be enough for most people, especially when compared with Apple and Google’s office suites (also available free of charge).
Here are some other new products and features expected in Microsoft 365:
This will allow parents to monitor and control kids screen activity and help you understand how your kids are spending their time across their Xbox, Windows 10 PCs, and Android phones etc. You can also set limits on screen time to help promote healthy digital habits. Additionally, you will be able to help steer them away from content that you feel is not age appropriate.
Microsoft also announced Editor for Microsoft Word. Editor will make grammar and other writing suggestions besides checking spelling. Editor’s similarity checker functions as an anti-plagiarism tool.
A Money add-on for Excel will automatically import bank and credit card feeds and puts them in a template within Excel to give you an at-a-glance overview of your finances. It will start to become available in the coming months in the U.S. first.
Presenter & Designer
You also get add-ons like the new Presenter Coach, which will help you through a series of slides. While rehearsing your presentation, Presenter Coach uses AI to detect if you are talking too fast and provides speech refinement recommendations. Designer auto generates slide layouts and adds thousands of clip art, fonts, and icons to an enhanced library.
Changes that are in name only
Microsoft has also made other changes to products, except these are in name only! There are no other changes to these except the name change. The Name Change Department at Microsoft has obviously kept very busy.
Here are those “changes”:
- Office 365 Business Essentials will become Microsoft 365 Business Basic.
- Office 365 Business Premium will become Microsoft 365 Business Standard.
- Microsoft 365 Business will become Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
- Office 365 Business and Office 365 ProPlus will both become Microsoft 365 Apps.
The following Office 365 plans will also have no changes:
- Office 365 for Enterprise
- Office 365 E1
- Office 365 E3
- Office 365 E5
- Office 365 for Firstline Workers
- Office 365 F1
- Office 365 for Education
- Office 365 A1
- Office 365 A3
- Office 365 A5
- Office 365 for Government
- Office 365 G1
- Office 365 G3
- Office 365 G5
So, the question is: Why all these changes?
Microsoft contends that this will make things simpler and “is designed to help you quickly find the plan you need and get back to your business”.