Office Apps Won't Run on Windows Server After October 2025
Earlier this month, Microsoft quietly announced the end of support for running (most) Office apps on Windows Server at the end of 2025.
Here's the announcement from Microsoft:
Microsoft 365 Apps is supported on Windows Server 2019 and Windows Server 2016 only until October 2025.
Direct deployment of Microsoft 365 Apps isn't supported on Windows Server 2022 as it's a fixed, non-changing operating system. However, it's possible to host virtual Windows client devices with Microsoft 365 Apps on Windows Server 2022.
Let's break down what this announcement means and doesn't mean:
Support for Server 2016/2019 Itself Is Not Affected
From the above Microsoft article:
Support for Windows Server itself is not impacted. Support for Windows Server 2016 ends in January 2027. Windows Server 2019 support ends in January 2029.
You Can Still Store Office Files on Windows Server
If you have Office files (*.xlsx, *.docx, *.pptx, etc.) or Access data files (*.accdb, *.mdb, etc.) on a shared folder of a Windows Server, those will work just fine on every Windows Server operating system now and after October 2025.
You Cannot Run Office Applications On Windows Server After October 2025...
In other words, you won't be able to install Word, Excel, or Access directly on a Windows Server operating system after October 2025.
However, there is one big exception (see next section).
...Unless It Is Office LTSC 2021
The Office LTSC 2021 (Long-Term Support Channel) is supported on Windows Server 2022, and presumably on Server 2016 and Server 2019 beyond the October 2025 cutoff for MS 365.
Here's the relevant note from Microsoft:
Microsoft 365 Apps is not supported on Windows Server 2022 because feature updates to Microsoft 365 Apps rely on changes to the underlying operating system. Office LTSC 2021 is supported for direct deployments on Windows Server 2022, because Office LTSC 2021 doesn't receive feature updates.
As for the Access Runtime...
I have no idea whether it will be supported or not.
I'm not aware of an Access Runtime equivalent of Office LTSC 2021. That makes me think there is a very good chance that you will NOT be able to run the Access Runtime on any Windows Server after October 2025.
Since the full version of Access is included in Office LTSC 2021, you could install that on the server. Of course, that scenario would require purchasing an Office license where the Access Runtime did not.
One common scenario that this will affect is running scheduled tasks using the Access Runtime on a Windows Server. While Microsoft does not officially support this scenario, I know it gets used in the wild all the time.
What Is Microsoft Thinking?
Why, after all these years, is Microsoft suddenly pulling the plug on allowing the installation of Office applications on Windows Server operating systems.
For Server 2022, the official explanation makes sense: Server 2022 is a "fixed, non-changing operating system" and MS 365 Apps "rely on changes to the underlying operating system." But that doesn't really explain why support is being cut off early for Server 2016 and Server 2019.
For the answer to that question, I'm afraid I have to get a bit more cynical.
Desktop as a Service
Part of Microsoft's recent move to Windows 11 involves a big bet on the Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) model as the future of operating systems.
This makes a certain amount of sense based on the convergence of several trends in the computer world:
- Widespread access to high-speed internet
- The proliferation of devices (laptops, desktops, tablets, mobile phones, etc.)
- The expansion of work-from-home (WFH) and hybrid work scenarios
- The popularity of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies
- The security risk of letting workers connect personal devices directly to corporate networks (such as via VPN)
- The adoption of virtual devices (e.g., VMWare) within enterprise environments
With these trends in mind, having a single desktop experience that you can access securely from any device starts to sound quite appealing. I think Microsoft is smart to bet on this trend.
You Will Be Made to Love DaaS...
...And you will be made to love it now.
Here's the thing about large public companies making big bets: they need those bets to pay off. This is where the cynic in me sees the early end of support for MS 365 Apps in Server 2016 and Server 2019 as nothing more than a way to juice demand for these new DaaS offerings from Microsoft.
And why might I think that?
Because Microsoft basically comes right out and says it:
There are other migration paths available that may better meet your technical and business requirements. To maintain support for Microsoft 365 Apps beyond October 2025, we recommend moving to one of the following client hosting solutions:
• Windows 365
• Azure Virtual Desktop
Image by Achim Thiemermann from Pixabay