Microsoft Terminates Support for Office 2007

If you use Microsoft Office 2007, you’re in for a surprise today when you open your Word or Excel systems today. When you do so, you will get a message saying that Microsoft is discontinuing support for Office 2007 in 2017. If you try to access the online help system for Word or Excel (or any other Office product), you will get the same message, which gives you the option of purchasing Office 365 at an annual subscription price of $99 per year for home users.

This is part of Microsoft’s long-term strategy to move away from selling software and toward renting the software instead of selling it outright. Going forward from now, you will no longer own your version of Microsoft Office. You will be renting the package and if you don’t pay the rent – at the rate of $9.99 per month for Office 365 – Microsoft will deny you access to Office 365 and everything you have created with their software.

Microsoft has been working on this strategy for more than ten years, moving away from selling software to distributing software via the internet. Earlier versions of their online software system failed because consumers didn’t yet have access to the high speed internet access that their online systems required. Now that most of their users have access to high speed internet access, Microsoft is trying once again to lease their software instead of selling it.

Benefits for Microsoft

The potential benefits for Microsoft are enormous. Released to the general public in 2007, more than 650 million units have been sold. Do the math. If each of these systems were sold on the current $99 per year annual contract, Microsoft could have earned $64.4 BILLION in pure profit annually. In the 10 years that Office 2007 has been on the market that would have generated $645 BILLION in pure profit for the company.

It’s pure profit because Microsoft would not have had to do anything they wouldn’t have to have done anyway in order to earn those dollars. All the fixes, patches and updates would still have to be done, but they would also have had this truly enormous revenue stream to dip into.

Aside from the obvious financial benefit, Office 365 will end Microsoft’s decades long struggle to provide support for a wide array of different versions of the same products. Going forward, there will only be Office 365. For Microsoft, this means much less overhead costs associated with providing support for multiple versions. With Office 365 in play, Microsoft will never have to absorb the costs of another product launch, or the embarrassment of another bad product.

Liabilities for Users

The problem, for you, as a user, is that – if you upgrade to Office 365 – you are going to be paying that $99 FOREVER. If you stop paying, you are going to be held up at gun point by Microsoft, which will happily hold your data ransom until you pay up….because they can. They can shut down your Office 365 and, along with it, your access to the cloud, which means you should make sure that you store local copies of your work on your machine.

Shutting off access to help on Office 2007 products is the first step toward forcing Office users to migrate to Office 365. As of right now, you can continue using your Office 2007 indefinitely because you own the license. Just don’t expect any support from Microsoft going forward from here.

Alternatives for Office Users

There are three alternatives to upgrading to Office 365:

  • Stick with Office 2007 and ignore the upgrade demands that Microsoft will throw at you.
  • Get a Google account (if you don’t have one already) and start using Google Docs, which are free, and will read and write Microsoft documents.
  • Download Apache’s open source Open Office product, which is a clone of Microsoft Office, also free.
    There are problems with all three of these solutions.

Sticking with Office 2007 is rather like keeping an old car running; sooner or later, you’re going to need parts that you can’t find anymore. Even if you can find the parts, you are stuck with an old-fashioned, outdated word processor or spreadsheet, without access to all the new bells and whistles.

In most cases, however, you won’t need the bells and whistles if you have been doing well enough without them. They will stick it to you, however, when you have to purchase a new computer. When you do, you may be forced to purchase Office 365 if you exceed the number of allowed installations on your Office 2007 source disks. There are ways around that, but most of them require support….from Microsoft.

So, whether or not you continue using your Office 2007 (as I am doing right now), it behooves you to have a backup system. While there are other word processors and spreadsheets out there, the best two are both free of charge, but each one imposes a different set of limitation.

Welcome to Google Docs

Google Docs is great. It’s free. It gives you almost total compatibility with the Office products you are accustomed to using. You can open any Office document with Google Docs, and you can open any Google document with Office….right now, at least. You may have to adjust to Google Doc’s quirky system, but that’s not a big hurdle for most users. It allows multi-user access to the same documents AT THE SAME TIME, which facilitates long distance collaborations. That’s something Office 365 will be happy to give you….for $99 a year, forever.

The biggest hurdle with Google Docs is that it is an online system. You can use Google Docs offline, but you can only do that after you have downloaded the documents you want to work on BEFORE you disconnect from the Internet. That’s because everything you do on Google Docs is stored online so you have to be online in order to access your documents. Once accessed, you can download those documents and work on them off-line when you don’t have access to the Internet.

The good thing about an online system is that you have multi-user, multi-point access from anywhere in the world – or off it, for that matter. The bad thing is that you really need a high speed Internet connection in order to use the system effectively. Do not even attempt to do this with a dial up system.

The best practice for using Google Docs is to make sure that you save everything to your local machine, but that raises the problem of having multiple, divergent versions of the same documents stored in different places. This gets confusing. Welcome to the 21st century.

Apache’s Open Office

The other solution, Apache Open Office, gives you a real-time local system that is downloaded to your local machine and is available 24/7. Open Office, as the name suggests, is essentially a plug-compatible replacement for Office. You can open any document created with Microsoft Office with Open Office and get to work right away. The user interface is very similar to Office and perhaps more intuitive than the current versions of the Microsoft product.

There really aren’t any substantial issues with Open Office, although some people will miss the look and feel of the Office products. The point is that you do have a choice, and you should think very carefully before agreeing to spend $99 a year for Office 365 for the rest of your life.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that end users are getting the short end of the stick. Sooner or later, business being business, Google – or whatever they call themselves now – will figure out that they can make a bundle of money by taking their currently free Google Docs product and putting users on an annual payment plan or a convenient monthly installment program. Locked in a death struggle with arch-rival Microsoft, Google cannot long overlook such a potentially potent revenue stream.

We don’t actually know how many people are using Google Docs because the company hasn’t released that data. Back in 2012, however, Google – and it was called Google then – estimated that there would be 1.2 billion Google Doc users by 2022, which would give them twice as many users as Microsoft.