Deploying Office365 ProPlus To A Device (Not A User)

office365Office365 ProPlus is the device based applications of the ever-green subscription version of the Office Suite. I say this because there is still often confusion about what Office365 ProPlus is compared to Office 2016 or Office 2019. The key message is:

  • If Office has a year after it (e.g. 2016 or 2019) then it’s the traditional ‘boxed’ version and, whilst it will get security updates, there are no new features going to be added to that product.
  • Office365 ProPlus is a subscription service that receives regular feature and security updates. It also has a cloud suite of tools associated with the subscription, such as OneDrive, Exchange Online, SharePoint etc and many others depending on what subscription service you’ve opted for.

If you want to see the difference between the two versions in action, check out this blog post I shared back in February which has 3x humorous videos of identical twins using the different products.

Deploying Office365 ProPlus

Many IT Admins are familiar with rolling out an MSI package to deploy Office, however ProPlus works a bit differently. This deployment guide for Office365 ProPlus is a great starting point, but it highlights one of the biggest differences between the Office 2019 versions and Office365 ProPlus – activation of the license!

The traditional ‘boxed’ versions of Office such as Office Professional 2016 or Office Professional 2019 typically used an activation key to compliantly license the product. Office365 ProPlus requires a licensed individual to enter their email address and password to activate the product.

Some educational institutes didn’t like the idea of individuals having to activate Office365 ProPlus so either continued to deploy Office Professional 2019 or used things like Shared Computer Activation to license Office365 ProPlus. This was particularly common for computer suites, libraries or ‘shared devices’ in common spaces like hallways or the back of a classroom.

In the USA, there was something called Device Based Activation which activated Office365 ProPlus against a device joined to Azure Active Directory, however this was not officially supported outside of the US. Until a new announcement today…..

Device Based Subscription For Office365 ProPlus

Today Microsoft announced Device Based Subscription for Education customers and you can read their original blog post here. So what exactly is it?

Office 365 ProPlus Device-based Subscription for Education will provide a device-based subscription experience that mirrors our user-based subscription model in ease of management and access to the desktop Office 365 desktop apps. Education customers may assign the device-based subscription on any device within the institution’s organization, including, but not limited to, any open access lab or library devices.

It’s worth pointing out that this will be available at no cost to existing EES agreement holders, but will not be available if licensing your school via other agreement types e.g. CSP, OVS-ES etc. A couple of useful FAQ from the blog post today as well:

Q: What is a “device-based subscription”?

Office 365 ProPlus Device-based Subscription for Education is an add-on license that will allow admins to assign an Office 365 ProPlus license to a device rather than to a user with an AAD identity.

Q: How different is device-based subscription from user-based licensing?

The most important difference is in the licensing method. Users on a licensed device will have access to the Office 365 desktop apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). Access to Office 365 services like OneDrive will depend on the user’s license.

Q: Will users have to use one of their five downloads?

No, users with Office 365 or Microsoft 365 licenses will not have to use one of their five downloads in order to access and use Office client apps on a device using/assigned a license for using Office 365 ProPlus Device-based Subscription for Education.

Q: What are the qualifications and requirements?

  • Device-based Subscriptions for Education will be available as a benefit for every customer who covers all Knowledge Workers or Education Qualified Users with an Office 365 ProPlus, an Office 365 A3/A5, or Microsoft 365 A4/A5 Faculty license.
  • Qualifying customers are entitled to as many DBS licenses as the total number of Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 A3/A5, and Microsoft 365 A3/A5 Faculty and Student licenses.
  • Device-based subscription will be available through EES (Volume Licensing), and not CSP.
  • Device must be Azure AD joined or Azure AD Hybrid joined.

Read the rest of the FAQ here.

My Point of View:

I think this is a pretty good development for educational institutes that have licensed Office365 across their faculty (All New Zealand State/State-Integrated schools will qualify for this) as it may allow them to deploy Office365 more seamlessly, particularly in those ‘shared device’ scenarios.

The requirement for the device to be joined to either AzureAD or a hybrid-AD join may mean some schools will need to think through their device management to take advantage of this new activation method, however there are other benefits they will get from moving towards cloud joined devices as well.

I know of a few schools that were using the Device Based Activation method (that only had official support in the USA) who will likely want to adopt this method as well.  If you’re thinking of moving away from Office 2019 to Office365 ProPlus you may want to read this blog post I wrote about update rings for new features.

If you want to see how many of your students have adopted Office365 on their devices you should read this post. Lastly, if you’re switching from G Suite to Office365 this guide is a good starting point!

I am always keen to discuss what I've written and hear your ideas so leave a reply here...

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