The key fact you need to understand about the Office 365 digital download option is that it is still Office 365 rather than Office 2019, which is the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship desktop productivity suite. Here is a quick guide to Office 365 and its digital download option and how it stacks up against Office 2019.
Both Office 365 and Office 2019 have different versions available
Microsoft has long produced different versions of its Office suites to suit different types of users. Typically it offers relatively cut-pack packages for home users and students, giving them basic essentials, but has more extensive packages available for SMBs and the most extensive packages of all for enterprise clients.
The Office 365 digital download is tied to your Office 365 subscription
This is possibly the key difference to understand. Office 365 is sold on a subscription model, in other words, you pay a regular fee to use it. As a part of your subscription, you can download a copy of Office 365 to a certain number of devices. This enables you to do some work offline (although some Office 365 apps do need an internet connection to have any meaningful functionality, Skype is a clear example of this). If you stop paying your Office 365 subscription, your digital downloads cease to work.
With Office 2019 by contrast, you make a one-time purchase and the software is yours to use for as long as you want.
With Office 365 you get functional upgrades as well as security updates
As Office 365 is a cloud-based service, it’s relatively easy for Microsoft to update its functionality as it goes along. In fact, Microsoft has every incentive to do so to ensure that its customers do not wind up switching their subscription to a competitor. Any updates made to Office 365 will typically be reflected in the digital downloads associated with the service.
With Office 2019, basically, what you buy is what you get. Microsoft has a legal and ethical obligation to fix any defects in the product, in other words, to address any security flaws, but it doesn’t have any obligation to improve its functionality. In fact, it has every incentive not to since it already has the purchase money and will only get paid again if you buy a new version for the improved features.
With Office 365, it’s easy to transition between devices
The idea behind offering a digital download of Office 365 is that you can install it on multiple devices, so that you can always get on with at least some work regardless of where you are and, for many apps, regardless of whether or not you have a decent internet connection. When you do get online, your Office 365 apps synch with the cloud so everything is always kept up-to-date as you transition between devices. You also get a decent amount of cloud storage included in your subscription, even home users get 1TB per user for up to 6 users.
Office 2019 is an entirely standalone product which is sold for use on one device and one device only. There are very cut-down versions of Office 2019 for mobile devices, but these only give you the most basic of editing features. You don’t need an internet connection for the apps to work and there is no automatic synchronization of data.
To be fair, you can set up synchronization with OneDrive (or similar apps) but you have to do this yourself and you will be limited to the 5GB of free storage Microsoft offers as standard unless you upgrade to a paid service.
There is also a fairly large question mark over the extent to which Microsoft will continue to allow Office 2019 to integrate with its cloud services. In simple terms, companies generally much prefer the subscription pricing model to the one-time purchase pricing model and it is entirely possible that over the next few years, Microsoft will start using a “carrot-and-stick” approach to getting people to switch to Office 365.
With Office 365 you get ongoing technical support
Again, the fact that Office 365 is sold as a subscription-based product means that you can expect to receive help any time you need it during the lifetime of your subscription. With Office 2019, Microsoft will provide help during an installation, but that is essentially it. Any issues after that are down to you to resolve. In theory, there should never be any issues after that, but in practice you may end up discovering conflicts between different items of software on your computer and it will be down to you to work out how to fix them.
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