A five-year lifespan for perpetual licensing would mean, going by Microsoft's usual three-year major release cycle, that it would offer traditional licenses for only the next upgrade, perhaps called Office 2016, but not the follow-up Office 2019.
Microsoft has thought about going subscription-only. In a February interview at a Morgan Stanley-hosted technology conference, Kurt DelBene, president of the Office division, was asked whether Office would move to the model. "I think it's the one thing that we talk about a bunch and try to figure out exactly where it's going," DelBene said then. "I think we have aspirations that ultimately it might get there."
Adobe's shift to software-by-subscription was announced Tuesday, when it said that upgrades to the Create Suite bundle -- PhotoShop is the best known of the CS applications -- would only be offered to subscribers of what it's called Creative Cloud. The current CS6 will continue to be sold and supported with bug fixes, but it will be the end of the line for those applications' perpetual licensing model.
Patterson also claimed that a quarter of consumers buying the newest version of Office did so by subscribing to Office 365 Home Premium. He did not divulge the source of his data, but it may have been media reports of U.S. retail sales.
A month ago, Stephen Baker of the NPD Group said that Office 365 accounted for 25% of all Office retail unit sales in the U.S. since its introduction in late January.
"So, perhaps the shift is happening faster than we originally thought, and Adobe is helping blaze the trail," Patterson said.
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This article, Microsoft won't guarantee buy-not-rent Office for next decade, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.