Microsoft Office 2016 Arrives Sept. 22

Microsoft Office 2016 brings an alternative release plan for organizations wary of rapid software updates.
11 Windows 10 Apps For Your Upgraded PC
11 Windows 10 Apps For Your Upgraded PC
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Microsoft on Thursday confirmed that Office 2016 will be released on Sept. 22, a date identified previously from a screenshot posted to a German website.

Julia White, general manager of Office 365, said in a blog post that organizations participating in a volume licensing agreement will be able to download Office 2016 from the Volume Licensing Service Center on Oct. 1.

Microsoft customers paying for the subscription version of Office, Office 365 ProPlus, can continue to download monthly updates, referred to as the Current Branch, as usual. The next Current Branch release coincides with the Sept. 22 availability of Office 2016 and will include the same updates.

To accommodate organizations that prefer a more measured rollout of new software, Microsoft is creating an additional option for Office 365 ProPlus subscribers called Current Branch for Business (CBB). According to White, CBB conforms with the Windows 10 update model: delivering three feature updates per year alongside monthly security updates.

The first CBB build is scheduled for February 2016. It will include the features in the Sept. 22 release and security updates from the four intervening months. The next CBB release is scheduled for June 2016.

White said Office 365ProPlus has gained additional administrative features, including Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), to help manage network traffic during updates, and new reports in the Office 365 admin portal detailing Office activation and usage.

IT administrators may also appreciate the extension of Information Rights Management (IRM) to Visio files, which allows Visio diagrams to be protected both online and offline.

[Check out InformationWeek's list of Office alternatives.]

Office 2016 adds support for data loss prevention and multi-factor authentication. It brings the real-time collaboration features available in Office online to the Windows Desktop version of Word 2016. It includes a new search tool called TellMe in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word that suggests application commands based on input describing what you want to do. It also gains support from Bing through a tool called Insights that surfaces contextually relevant information from the Web.

Clutter, a new Exchange feature, applies machine learning to Outlook email messages in an attempt to separate low-priority messages from important ones.

In its FY15 Q4 report, Microsoft said Office product sales declined 4% (up 1% in constant currency), a consequence of customers shifting to the cloud. The company also said that Office 365 Consumer subscribership increased by almost 3 million in the quarter to reach 15.2 million. It also said that commercial cloud revenue increased 88% (96% in constant currency).