There are currently a few different ways to get your hands on Microsoft Office. There are home and business versions of Office. And make a one-time purchase to get a version of Office that you can install on a single PC or pay for an Office 365 subscription that lets you install the operating system on one or more computers, always get the latest version as soon as it’s available, and connect to cloud services like OneDrive.
In recent years, Microsoft has really pushed Office 365 subscriptions, but the company also continues to offer the single-time-purchase version, which Microsoft has recently started to refer to as Office perpetual (because you pay once and then you can continue using it indefinitely without paying any more).
But in the future it looks like some features may only be available to customers willing to pony up the money for a monthly or annual subscription.
In a recent blog post, Microsoft explains that starting October 13th, 2020 you’ll either need an office 365 ProPlus subscription or a version of Office perpetual that’s still in the “mainstream support” cycle in order to connect to Office 365 services such as OneDrive (to save files to the cloud, edit documents simultaneously with other users, and so on).
In other words, buy a copy of Office 2016 and you get 5 years of mainstream support… including the ability to connect to OneDrive and other Office 365 services. But when mainstream supports (on October 13th, 2020), you’ll either need to buy a newer version of Office perpetual or pay for a subscription to keep using those features.
Don’t need cloud services? No problem. Keep using your current version of Office indefinitely. But Microsoft would clearly rather get you to spend money on a regular basis.
Alternately, you could stop spending any money at all on office software and just use Google Docs, LibreOffice, or one of several other free alternatives. Sure, some features may work differently than in Microsoft Office, and you may run into compatibility issues if everyone else you work with uses Microsoft products. But free is a lot cheaper than the $70 per year you’d spend to get the cheapest possible version of Office 365.