South African ICT resellers will benefit from a streamlined stock-keeping unit (SKU) for the on-premise edition of Microsoft Office following the launch of Office 2019 on 2 October.

Microsoft is releasing only a single SKU for the product that will support both Mac and Windows clients.

The packaging of the physical release will contain a code to download Office 2019, which includes the newest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. At the same time, Microsoft is offering more flexibility and simpler licensing terms to customers that opt for Office 365, the cloud-connected version of Office, which it is positioning as the flagship product.

“With the newest releases of Office for the cloud and the desktop, Microsoft aims to entice end-users away from on-premise versions of the software,” says Andrew Firman, product manager at Tarsus Distribution. “Resellers can benefit from this shift by enjoying annuity revenues, but they must make sure to remind their customers to renew their Office 365 subscriptions every 11 months. This is also a great opportunity to contact customers and sell-in value added services.”

Microsoft calls Office 2019 a solution for “customers who aren’t ready for the cloud.”

Most of the enhancements in Office 2019 are a subset of features that have been added to Office 365 over the last three years. Office 2019 is a one-time release and won’t receive future feature updates.

The enhancements include:

* The ability to create cinematic presentations with PowerPoint features like Morph and Zoom.

* New data analysis functions in Excel, including new formulas and charts and enhancements to PowerPivot.

* Focused Inbox for Outlook, which moves less important emails out of the way.

* Enhanced security and streamlined administration for IT admins.

* In the coming weeks, Microsoft will also release Exchange Server 2019, Skype for Business Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2019, and Project Server 2019.

Microsoft has increased the number of user licences available on the Office 365 Home edition from five to six. From October, Microsoft is also lifting the device limit restriction for Office 365 Home and Personal subscribers. Users will be able install the software on an unlimited number of devices but will need to sign in to use the software.

Subscribers to the Personal edition – which offers a licence for one user – could previously only install Office 365 on up to five devices. Now they can install the software on as many devices as they wish, but they can only sign in to and use Office 365 on one device.

Home subscribers could only install Office 365 on up to 10 devices across all users in the past. Now each of the six users can install Office 365 on as many devices as he or she wishes to, but only 30 devices across all users may be signed in to Office 365 concurrently.

“Microsoft calls Office 365 the best, most secure version of Office with the lowest cost of ownership, so there can be little doubt about where it is focusing its energies,” says Firman. “Yet it is pleasing to see that it continues to support on-premise versions of Office for customers unwilling or unable to move towards the cloud.”

Office 365 will evolve with features that will not be added to Office 2019.

At its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida during the last week of September, Microsoft unveiled several AI experiences that will soon come to Office 365, including:

* Ideas, which helps people tap into the power of AI with one click of a mouse to launch intelligent recommendations in Office applications;

* Background blur in Microsoft Teams, which uses facial detection to blur your background during video meetings; and

* Insert Data from Picture in Excel,, which allows users to take a picture of a table from their phones and quickly convert it into an Excel file that can be edited, analysed and shared.