On Sept. 16, Microsoft released Office LTSC for Mac 2021 to commercial customers ahead of the October 5 launch to general consumers. LTSC, or Long Term Servicing Channel, is the new official name of Office for customers with a perpetual Volume License.
If your company has Office 365 subscription licenses you can stop reading here. Nothing changes for you and your users will always have the latest features as soon as they are released. However if you deploy the Volume Serializer keep reading for what’s new.
For MacAdmins who navigated the switch between Office 2016 and 2019, there are several welcome differences this time around.
The most notable is that the installer packages and version number will stay in-sync between 2019, 2021 and O365. This means you can use the same installer package (starting with version 16.53) no matter which of those three licenses you use.
This is a big change from the 2016 to 2019 transition when 2016 VL users stayed on the 16.16.x build series (culminating at 16.16.27 in October 2020 when 2016 lost support). While 2019 VL and O365 users saw their versions continue to progress to 16.17, 16.18, etc. through the current 16.53.
This greatly simplifies the upgrade from 2019 to 2021, only requiring installation of the new Office 2021 Volume Serializer on existing up-to-date Office installs. This can be done even with the applications running, they’ll detect the license change on next launch.
No complicated dance of making sure the correct installer package and VL Serializer got installed together like back in 2018. It also simplifies deployment if you have users on mixed licenses and support a combination of 2019, 2021 and O365 since you only have to deploy a single package for everyone.
NOTE: Do not install the new Office 2021 Volume Serializer on computers that have not updated to version 16.53. Doing so will put the older versions of office in an unlicensed state until the apps are upgraded to 16.53 or higher.
Another welcome difference this time is that the Microsoft AutoUpdate (MAU) app ids are not changing. This means no changes to your configuration profiles will be required. 2019, 2021 and O365 users will continues getting updates as they do already.
An additional change worth noting is that the 2021 consumer licenses (Home & Business, Home & Student) will get more features than Volume Licenses this time around. That was not the case with 2016 and 2019 when there was feature parity, with only O365 seeing additional features.
So what are the feature differences between all these versions? There is a very helpful Features and Licensing Matrix on the ever helpful https://macadmins.software site. At the time of publishing the Matrix is not fully updated so all new features can be found at this link: Office LTSC for Mac 2021 features
Office for Mac 2019 will continue receiving support through version 16.78. So there is no rush to deal with this upgrade, you have until October 2023. At that time MAU will offer no further updates when a 2019 license is active.
Official documentation is available at this link: Deployment guide for Office for Mac
As always we owe a big thanks to Microsoft’s Paul Bowden for his work keeping MacAdmins informed of changes like these.
For more discussion of deploying Office on macOS join us in the MacAdmins Slack‘s #microsoft-office channel.