Microsoft announced last year that there will be a successor to Office 2016, the current version of the popular office suite that is bought on a “perpetual license” basis, meaning there is one payment made at time of purchase, and the software doesn’t get updates. This contrasts with the Office 365 subscription version, which is paid for monthly and is regularly updated with new features for as long as the customer subscribes. The subscription model is popular as a component of Managed Service Plans offered by IT service companies, and is often bundled with Exchange Online for email service.

This successor bundle, cleverly named “Office 2019,” will be geared primarily to corporate customers that for reasons of habit, preference or inertia, don’t yet want to move to the subscription model. Microsoft has a variety of licensing options for these customers.

Here are some of the questions business users may have about the suite:

When will Microsoft release Office 2019?

The company pegged the launch of the suite sometime during the second half of 2018, and it is expected to be available to Office 365 users first, followed by perpetual license customers. Microsoft currently releases two feature updates per year to Office 365 users, one in March and the other in September, so it’s expected that one of these updates will become Office 2019.

What features will be in Office 2019?

Microsoft has not made a firm statement, but there are some hints available. For instance, there should be the ability to do Ink replay in Word, and Morph in PowerPoint, which are already available to Office 365 users. Don’t know what Ink and Morph are? You’re not alone, which is part of the challenge of the giant software suite in general, coupled with the subscription model.

There are so many features now available in the suite that almost no one knows what all of them are, much less how and why to use them. Coupled with that complexity, the subscription model means that the features change with the updates – the product is no longer something you can learn once, it is regularly adding new features. 

What bundles will Microsoft offer for Office 2019?

Nothing official has come from Microsoft yet, but it seems likely that today’s bundles will be largely unchanged in terms of which apps are included. There are also special packages made available to larger organizations through volume purchases. It may be questionable to assume that it will sell single-copy versions of the business packages (includes Outlook) at retail.

Will Microsoft make me buy a subscription for Office 2019?

Probably not, but it’s looking like this will be the last release available with a perpetual license. Microsoft will, at some point, discontinue sales of these licenses, and they have tipped their hand with the Office 2019 support schedule. It has been reduced from the usual 10 years to only 7, so it expires at the same time as support for Office 2016. Microsoft has made no secret that it prefers the Office 365 subscription model for the recurring revenue it generates, and they have already announced that the perpetual-licensed versions won’t be able to connect to the company’s own cloud services after Oct. 13, 2020.

Will Office 2019 support Windows 7 or 8.1?

Officially no, Microsoft was crystal clear that it would not support Office 2019 on Windows 7 or 8.1, only Windows 10. However, there’s a difference between official support and “it might work but you’re on your own.”

What’s the future look like for Microsoft, beyond Office 2019?

In March 2018, Microsoft announced a major re-organization, after which this much is clear: Windows’ reign as king at Microsoft has come to an end.  The future of the company is in the cloud, and no longer on the desktop. In the announcement, even the mention of the dominant desktop operating system was tied to their cloud offerings.

That is not to say the desktop OS will simply disappear any time soon, but it does suggest that it will begin to play a lesser role over time. This shift in priorities mirrors the company’s financial results: Its cloud offerings are the fastest-growing groups in the company. The Azure cloud-computing division is even driving the development of Windows Server – the Windows version that runs email systems and most other corporate applications.

This change in emphasis is not necessarily a surprise, said Gartner analyst and former Microsoft employee Ed Anderson. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment of a shift that has been happening gradually for years. “It does fundamentally elevate cloud to be the primary driver for Microsoft going forward,” he said.