We can chalk this one up to another classic Microsoft miscommunication, but the Microsoft Office brand is not disappearing. At least not yet.
And that makes sense: Microsoft Office isn’t just iconic, it’s one of Microsoft’s oldest and most popular brands. But it’s also fair to say that Microsoft has engaged in a lot of rebranding during the Nadella era, much of it aimed at promoting “Microsoft”—the overreaching brand—over individual product brands like Windows, Office, and Surface.
This, too, makes some sense. But in a world in which many mainstream users still believe that Office comes free with Windows because that’s how they acquired them, together, with a new PC, it’s not really possible to drop Office as a brand entirely. It’s just too hard-coded in people’s minds.
What Microsoft can do, of course, is make Office part of a broader product strategy and that includes both legacy apps—the Office suite—and more modern apps and services. And that’s what Microsoft 365 is all about.
In any event, you may have seen the news: at Ignite 2022 last week, Microsoft announced
Laurent, at least got it right: “What Microsoft didn’t explicitly say as part of its various Ignite announcements yesterday is that the Microsoft 365 brand is actually taking over the decades-old Office brand,” he wrote in his news piece about the announcement. And this is confirmed by a FAQ on Microsoft’s website: Under the heading “Is Office going away entirely?”, Microsoft answers, “No, as part of Microsoft 365 you will continue to get access to apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. We will also continue to offer one-time purchases of those apps to consumers and businesses via Office 2021 and Office LTSC plans. Additionally, there are no changes to Office 365 subscription plans.”
In other words, what Microsoft is really doing here is what it’s been doing for years: removing Office as the uber brand for its sweeping productivity offerings, replacing that with Microsoft 365, and keeping the Office brand around to refer to the legacy products, most of which are desktop applications. It started, sort of, in April 2020, when Microsoft announced that it would rename many—but not all—Office 365 subscriptions to Microsoft 365. For example, Office 365 Home and Personal became Microsoft 365 Family and Personal, respectively. And Office Lens was later renamed to Microsoft Lens. And newer productivity products, like Microsoft Editor, arrived without Office branding from the beginning, of course.
What’s changing now is similar and in keeping with previous changes. In fact, it’s curious this didn’t happen earlier: the inter-related Office.com, Office app for Windows 10/11, and Office mobile app are all being rebranded to Microsoft 365. They will continue to offer very similar functionality to each other, and each will get a new icon, a new user experience, and new features. More specifically, each will include a new Create interface that’s a front-end for Office apps and their templates, a new Apps module to highlight familiar and new apps and tools, and an overview of your Microsoft 365 account. Additionally, the My Content module that is currently made available only to commercial customers will come to consumers, providing easy access to both personal and shared content. And commercial customers will get a new Feed module that surfaces relevant information about those with whom you work.
According to Microsoft’s FAQ, these changes will roll out over the next few months. Office.com will be revved first, in November. And then the Office app for Windows 10/11 and Office mobile apps will be updated in January 2023.
Given the obvious nature of these changes, I have to wonder why we always overreact to this kind of thing. Tech enthusiasts—myself included—are a sensitive lot, and we react badly when products and services we use regularly are killed or rendered less useful by their makers. But this isn’t the death of Office, a product line birthed when 5.25-inch floppy disks were still a thing, and one that will likely outlive us all. Strategies change, for better or worse, and how and where we access its features has evolved. But Office is as close to eternal as is possible in this industry.