Microsoft just warned its Mac-using Office 365 customers that they will need to upgrade to macOS Sierra (version 10.12) to use Office 2019. Sadly, this news has been widely misreported and misunderstood.
Put simply, we already knew that Office 2019 would require macOS Sierra or newer.
“As of the Office 365 for Mac September 2018 update, macOS 10.12 or later is required to update to the new version of the Office client apps for Mac and receive new feature updates,” a Microsoft support document explains. “Users who do not update to macOS 10.12 or later before the September update will still receive mainstream support and will be able to continue using their current version of Office 365 for Mac.”
Depending on which report you see, you may have understood this to mean that Microsoft is requiring its Mac customers to upgrade to a recent macOS version–Sierra first shipped two years ago, in September 2016—in order to use Office 365.
But that is not the case. The issue here is Office 2019, which Microsoft will apparently soon release. That version of the Office client suite will require macOS Sierra or newer.
First, is this a problem?
I don’t believe so. As with Windows 10, new macOS versions are provided for free to customers and the upgrade rate on Mac is pretty high (if not as high as on, say, iOS). According to Netmarketshare, the usage rate for the versions of macOS that are compatible with Office 2019 is roughly three times that of non-compatible, older versions.
And for those Mac users who won’t—or can’t—upgrade, they can simply continue using Office 2016. That version of the suite will continue getting security updates.
As Microsoft notes, “Office 365 customers remaining on older macOS versions with Office 2016 for Mac will receive mainstream support, but not new Office 365 features.”
Second, is this even news?
No, and this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this requirement. In June, a Microsoft FAQ noted the following.
“Office 2019 for Mac is supported on the two most recent versions of macOS. When a new version of macOS is released, Office 2019 for Mac’s Operating System requirement becomes the then-current two most recent versions at that time: the new version of macOS and the previous version.”
In other words, not news.
But there is some real news here: Microsoft plans to ship Office 2019 to Office 365 customers in September. Previously, we only knew that this would happen by the end of 2018.