Although Microsoft actively pushes its cloud-powered Microsoft 365 offerings for Office applications, it still releases perpetual versions of Office every few years, too. The difference between them is that Microsoft 365 customers have to continually make payments to retain access to the services on offer, while those who purchase a perpetual version of Office like Office 2016 and Office 2019 only make a one-time payment. The drawback is that the versions of Office that they receive are feature-locked and only supported for a fixed time frame.
Recently, many Office 2016 and 2019 customers received a bit of a shock when several pieces of Microsoft documentation implied that they would immediately lose access to Microsoft 365 backend services come October 2023. This was very alarming because both versions of Office are under extended support until October 14, 2025.
The confusion was caused by a Microsoft support document that mentioned that:
Office 2019 and Office 2016 will be supported for connecting to Microsoft 365 (and Office 365) services until October 2023.
Another Microsoft TechCommunity article also emphasized that:
Importantly, Office 2016 & 2019 won’t be supported for connecting to Microsoft 365 services, including Exchange Online, starting Oct 2023. And Security updates for Office 2013 will end in April 2023. Don't wait until the last minute - now is a great time to upgrade.
Contrary to the aforementioned documentation and the subsequent alarm bells this raised, Microsoft has now confirmed that it isn't cutting off access to Microsoft 365 services after all. Instead, they may face reliability issues. In a statement to ZDNet, Microsoft clarified that:
Microsoft will NOT be blocking supported and up-to-date Office clients from connecting to M365 cloud services. However, as announced in April 2017 and clarified in February 2018, Microsoft plans to stop supporting Office clients out of mainstream support when connecting to Microsoft 365 cloud services.
Practically, this means that as we make updates to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and other Microsoft 365 services, we will not be building around the constraints inherent in the older perpetual Office clients that are already out of mainstream support. Customers will not be blocked in connecting, but they may not get the full value out of new investments in our cloud services. Over time, they may run into unexpected issues.
Well, there you have it, folks. Office 2016 and 2019 customers will still be able to connect to Microsoft 365 services, but they might run into issues. There's also the possibility that they won't encounter any issues at all and this is just a ploy to get customers to upgrade to Office 2021 or even Microsoft 365. All in all, it seems like unclear Microsoft documentation is to blame for this confusion, so it's good that we have explicit confirmation from the company now.