When’s the next version of Office for Mac coming out?

Note: Yep, that’s a loaded question. And I do make a prediction for the next major release of Office for Mac toward the end of this post. However, what’s important is knowing when to expect updates and what to expect in each.

Folks want to know now when they’ll see something new and shiny or maybe they just think the next update will fix a bug that’s biting them. I’d be lying if I said I knew or maybe I’d be breaking an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) if I did say something. But that doesn’t stop me from looking at history, playing with a lot of numbers and dates and making some educated guesses to answer:

When will Microsoft release the next update to Office for Mac?

When will Microsoft release the next major update to Office for Mac?

When will Microsoft release the next major version of Office for Mac?

When will Microsoft release the next update to Office for Mac?

Minor updates, also known as “maintenance releases” are denoted by that last decimal place in the version number such as “14.2.3”. That spot where the “3” sits means this release includes some minor bug fixes, one or more security updates or both.

Minor bug fixes can correct crashing problems under very specific circumstances or include patches for vulnerabilities in Office’s code that may allow malicious code to run on your computer. (Generally, these minor updates for security issues apply more to the Windows version of Office but the same code is also in the Mac version.)

Past history shows:

  • Microsoft releases about a dozen minor updates over a product’s lifetime
  • Microsoft generally releases minor updates on Patch Tuesday
  • Microsoft sometimes releases X.X.1 updates (such as 14.1.1 or 14.2.1) as soon as possible rather than waiting for Patch Tuesday
    Minor updates release history

    Office 2011

    Office 2008

    Office 2004

    Total Number of minor updates 9 11 19
    Patch Tuesday updates 7 7 16
    Non Patch Tuesday updates 2 4 3
    Most common months for updates April, December June, August, October, December October
    Note: Microsoft hasn’t released a minor update in January since 2003.
Microsoft definitely doesn’t have a regular schedule for releasing minor updates but when releasing one will generally do so on Patch Tuesday, which is the second Tuesday of every month. This is their published release cycle for most product updates not just Office for Mac. Occasionally, they’ll release an out-of-band update before the next Patch Tuesday to fix an urgent problem introduced by a recently released major update.

What we won’t find in any minor update are new features. The purpose of minor updates is to fix leaky plumbing.

When will Microsoft release the next major update to Office for Mac?

Major updates are denoted by that second decimal place in the version number such as “14.2.0″. That spot where the “2” sits generally means this release is significant but not significant enough to warrant calling it a different product.

A Service Pack (abbreviated SP) is a special type of major update that often adds new features to a product in addition to fixing bugs. Microsoft will release one or two service packs in the life of a product. They do this because time didn’t permit them to include features in the initial product release or they need to tie into a newly released service such as an Exchange server update.

Past history shows:

  • Microsoft releases an average of 2-3 major updates over a product’s lifetime
  • Microsoft generally refers to only the first and second major updates as “Service Packs”
  • Microsoft releases SP1 about 4-5 months after a new product ships
  • Microsoft releases SP2 about 13 months after SP1
    Major updates release history

    Version

    Release date

    Service Pack 1

    Service Pack 2

    Days to SP1 from release date

    Days to SP2 from SP1

    Office 2001 October 11, 2000
    Office X November 19, 2001 May 1, 2002 163
    Office 2004 February 12, 2004 October 12, 2004 September 22, 2005 154 345
    Office 2008 January 15, 2008 May 4, 2008 July 20, 2009 110 442
    Office 2011 October 26, 2010 April 12, 2011 April 12, 2012 168 366

Let’s extrapolate the bullet points:

  • Microsoft is likely to release another major update in the life of Office 2011
  • Microsoft may not be releasing any more Service Packs for Office 2011 and therefore not be adding any new functionality

Already, though, I have an exception to that second bullet point. Computerworld recently reported Microsoft is planning Office 365 integration with Office for Mac 2011. That warrants a major update or maybe enen a totally new product. We’ll see if this new functionality is released as a Service Pack or something else.

When will Microsoft release the next major version of Office for Mac?

The key words in that question are “major version”. This will be a new product for purchase and will include many new features or major enhancements.

Every major version of Office for Mac has a version number assigned to it .

  • Office for Mac 2011 = 14.0.0
  • Office for Mac 2008 = 12.0.0
  • Office for Mac 2004 = 11.0.0
  • Office X for Mac = 10.0.0
  • Office 2001 for Mac = 9.0.0

Microsoft skipped version 13.0.0 primarily because of customer superstition but maybe due to a little superstition of their own too.

So, what we want to know is “When will Microsoft release version 15.0.0 of Office for Mac?”

Past history shows:

  • Microsoft brand names Office for Mac one year later than Office for Windows
  • Microsoft releases Office for Mac an average of nine months after releasing Office for Windows
  • Microsoft releases Office for Mac during the months of October through February but not in December
    Microsoft Office release history

    Version: Windows/Mac

    Windows release date

    Mac release date

    Days Between release dates

    Office 2000/2001 January 27, 1999 October 11, 2000 623
    Office XP/X May 31, 2001 November 19, 2001 172
    Office 2003/2004 November 17, 2003 February 12, 2004 87
    Office 2007/2008 January 30, 2007 January 15, 2008 350
    Office 2010/2011 June 15, 2010 October 26, 2010 133

Let’s extrapolate the bullet points:

  • Microsoft hasn’t announced release dates yet for Office 2013 (version 15.0.0) for Windows, however, history shows they’ll likely release it in either a late January or a May/June timeframe. Given that they released a public preview in July 2012, January is the more likely month
  • October falls nine months after January, which is prime time to release a product for the holidays
  • Microsoft will probably release Office for Mac 2014 between October 2013 and February 2014
With late year releases being the norm for Office for Mac and support ending April 2013 for Office for Mac 2008 I’ll predict Microsoft to ship Office for Mac 2014 in October 2013.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. Shipping may slip to a later month but more than likely won’t move to an earlier month.

I’ve compiled a history of Office for Mac releases and updates dating back to Office 98. To see the data I used to create this post refer to our list of Release dates.

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