Developers and IT pros have been test-driving a preview of Office 2016 since March, but the final version is now set to launch starting September 22. Microsoft said the "seminal" release will be chock full of new IT management features.
The new suite of Office applications will give Office 365 ProPlus business subscribers a choice of two types of ongoing updates. As they have in the past, company and organizational users can continue to receive feature and security updates on a monthly basis under an option now called "Current Branch."
For enterprise users, there will also be a new update option called "Current Branch for Business," which will deliver three feature updates annually while providing monthly security updates. The option is designed for organizations that prefer to wait for updates, need time for testing or want to better manage customizations, Microsoft said.
Users with personal or home subscriptions who update to Office 2016, meanwhile, will begin seeing automatic monthly updates starting in October.
New Ways To Upgrade and Deploy
"We've enhanced the upgrade and installation experience, and for Office 365 subscribers, we've made changes to how the 2016 apps are updated moving forward," Julia White, general manager of Office 365 Technical Product Management, said today in a blog post. "We're also delivering new tools and resources to help you prepare, deploy and manage Office."
The Current Branch for Business option was developed based on feedback from many users who currently run Office 365 ProPlus, White said. The approach is similar to that taken by Microsoft with its new Windows 10 operating system, she added.
The first Current Branch for Business build, which will come out in February, will be "effectively the same feature set as the September 22nd release, but with four additional months of security updates also included," White noted.
Business users with volume licensing agreements for Office will be able to download the Office 2016 suite from Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service Center starting October 1.
'Cloud Roadshow' Events Planned
Microsoft added a number of other new capabilities to Office 2016 based on comments and requests from IT professionals, White noted. They include the addition of deployment for Background Intelligent Transfer Service to help administrators better control network traffic when they deploy updates.
The Office 365 admin portal will also offer new reports on Office activation and usage, White added. Office 2016 also brings across-app support for data loss prevention, along with multi-factor authentication and "other mission-critical control capabilities."
Microsoft released Office 2016 for Mac users in July. The preview version of that suite is expected to expire at the end of October.
IT professionals and developers will be able to explore other new features in Office -- as well as Windows and Azure -- through a series of "Microsoft Cloud Roadshow" events to be held at a dozen cities around the globe from November through March. Each event will offer two days of technical training led by Microsoft engineers.