Office 2019 Click-to-Run: What we don't know

Office 2019 is on its way, so it's time to get to know Click-to-Run.

Microsoft recently shared news that Office 2019 would be released sometime in fall of 2018, and the only deployment option that enterprises can use with it is Click-to-Run. Even more interesting is that the announcement stated that the suite will only work on Windows 10. What do these things mean to your organization? Let's peel back the layers, because as it turns out, there's a lot we don't know yet.

Click-to-Run

Deploying applications with Click-to-Run is not new, as it's something we have seen in the virtualization space with App-V applications for many years. Microsoft started offering Click-to-Run as a deployment choice for Office 2013, so it's been around. However, it is likely you didn't use it (or you were using it but didn't know it), which probably had something to do with the other options you were leveraging instead, such as deployment through .msi. So, you're probably thinking, 'Great, but what does that really mean again?'

From what I can gather, at this point it appears that the standardization of the deployment mechanism will improve the overall experience, and from the admin perspective, we can still do things like manage the software with Group Policy, control updates, and leverage SCCM for deployment. It also appears that there are options for in-place upgrades when moving to Microsoft Office 2019 or Office 365.

Office 2019 Licensing

We know that this will be offered via perpetual licenses, like with other regular Office versions in the past. This just means that we buy the license up front, and then pay an annual subscription fee to allow the owner to access updates and technical support. Licenses are also device-based, just like other traditional versions. KMS (Key Management Service) and MAK (Multiple Activation Keys) are still valid options for ensuring that enterprise users get a license, and an Internet connection is not required to use the product. So, no news here.

What we do not know yet

When I review the Microsoft statements about Click-to-Run, I find that there are several unanswered questions, as well as statements that require additional clarification. These stem from my past experiences with Office compared to what Microsoft has released about Office 2019 to date.

  • Upgrade Path - In one breath, it's documented that there is an upgrade path from older versions of Office, but in the past we have seen exceptions to this. We'll learn more about the actual supported upgrade paths once the product is released . It appears that SCCM deployment will be an option, but again, there's more to come.
  • Works with Windows 10 - With Windows 7 on the sunset path by early 2020, it's not surprising that this will only work with Windows 10, but what we don't know is which versions. We definitely need some clarification, because of course there are several different versions of Windows 10 available to date.
  • MDM/Intune? - If we are managing Windows 10 with MDM or Intune, we need some clarification from Microsoft around whether Click-to-Run can be used to deploy Office or if another approach will be required. Nothing has been stated around this to date. There are also SCCM/Intune co-management scenarios to worry about.
  • Will I be using the Office Deployment Tool (ODT)? - My initial thoughts, based on experiences with other versions of Office that use Click-to-Run, are that I would expect that this to be one of the deployment options in addition to SCCM, but there has not been anything officially stated by Microsoft on this to date.
  • Office 365 Accounts - The announcement around this implies that an organizational user can sign in to software, but no internet connection is required. Does the fact that a user can sign into the software mean that this works with Office 365 accounts and licensing too? At first glance, my belief would be no, but the statement around login leaves me looking for more detail.

Is this a big change?

We're not completely sure yet, and we are still learning how much impact this will have on our workflows and enterprise deployments. At first glance, it appears that if your organization relies on .msi deployments of Office today, then the change will be more significant than if your organization is already using Click-to-Run. This is purely speculation at this point, but based upon Microsoft's approaches with similar technologies in the past, this is likely what we can expect.

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