Microsoft 365 vs Windows 365 vs Office 365: Differences Explained

  • Read on to find out the main differences between Microsoft 365, Windows 365, and Office 365.
  • Microsoft is being almost deliberately confusing about licenses and editions for Windows and Office.
  • It doesn’t help that products are renamed constantly, or the fact the 365 suffixes are added to a lot of these packages.
microsoft office windows editions versions

There isn’t anything more confusing in the tech world than Microsoft editions and licenses. When you think you got it right, you realize you actually didn’t, or like me, you find out something new each time you try and write an article about Microsoft product versions.

So today I’ll try my best (and probably fail miserably) to explain the main differences between Windows 365, Office 365, and Microsoft 365. The latter was a surprise for me too. I thought it was an error, but no, just a new product rename/relaunch.

Let’s see if I can explain what’s “what”. I won’t even try and answer “why”. It’s beyond my comprehension.

What’s the “365” word/number from Microsoft product names?

The use of 365 was never fully explained by Microsoft, but it’s fair to say it’s a designation for the company’s subscription-as-a-service products. You pay monthly or yearly for the number of users/installs you need in your company (applies to personal plans to some degree).

365 software subscribers will always receive the latest feature updates. Stand-alone users of Office versions (2019, 2021) will be locked to the feature set available at the time of software release.

On the other hand, Windows 10 and 11 users will get all the future updates, just like any other 365 software. Didn’t I tell you this is really confusing?

What is Windows 365

Windows 365 is a newly released version of the Microsoft familiar OS. The main difference is that it runs on the company’s Azure server infrastructure. It’s basically a virtual machine you can access from anywhere, on any device. Nothing is saved on your personal device.

Windows 365 is mostly meant for companies who want better security with less hassle, or the need for a dedicated IT department. You can subscribe and try Windows 365 as a personal user, but regular folks are better off with the installed version.

What is Office 365?

This is the first version of the 365 software. It’s the subscription-based Office suite. It installs on your computer just like the stand-alone Office variant, but you’ll use your Microsoft account to activate the software, before first use. Other than that you won’t probably notice the difference.

For personal and family use there are two variants at this time. They’re cheaper per year than a full stand-alone version, especially if you factor in that the family plan can be installed on up to 6 devices.

As time goes by the stand-alone version might look like a better buy, but remember you’re stuck with the feature set available at launch.

What is Microsoft 365?

This is a relatively new term and defines some specific Office 365 plans for individuals, families, businesses, and enterprise users. There are a lot of different pricing tiers, so if you’re interested to learn more click this link. Basically, Microsoft 365 replaces the “old” Office 365 naming (details here).

office 365 is microsoft 365

These Microsoft 365 plans include premium versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, advanced tools like Microsoft Editor, financial planners, smart perks like Word Resume Assistant, and PowerPoint Presenter Coach.

Higher subscription tiers up the ante and include an appointment manager, Microsoft Bookings, plus added security.

Also, read (if you didn’t have enough already):

That’s pretty much everything you need to know at a basic level about Microsoft’s confusing portfolio of 365 products.

Got questions? I’m sure you have some, so don’t be shy and ask below.

Avatar for Ionuț-Alexandru Popa
I'm a writer and Editor-in-Chief at BinaryFork. I am passionate about technology, science, space exploration, and movies. I started writing about tech more than 20 years ago, after graduating in Computer Science.
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