Two weeks ago, the bombshell news about Python integration coming to Excel was greeted with rip-roaring excitement. The secret had been well-kept by tight-lipped Microsoft MVPs, who were finally able to bombard us with their pre-recorded demos to whet our appetites.
However, amidst the intrigue and curiosity was a small sigh of disapproval about what was stated in Microsoft’s official blog:
“While in Preview, Python in Excel will be included with your Microsoft 365 subscription. After the Preview, some functionality will be restricted without a paid license. More details will be available before General Availability.”— Stefan Kinnestrand (Microsoft)
Many of us are scratching our heads, wondering what “some functionality will be restricted without a paid license” actually means and whether this could have wider implications. However, it does raise an interesting talking point about the future.
Most people use Excel as part of Microsoft 365, whether a Personal, Family, Business, Enterprise, or Education subscription. However, there’s still a smattering who insist on clinging to their perpetual copies.
The big benefit of Microsoft 365 is having access to other programs, most notably Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneDrive. We also receive regular updates, a far cry from the past when we’d wait three years for the next Office copy to be released on DVD-ROM.
I use Microsoft 365 Personal (formerly Office 365), which, according to my email billing records, has an annual fee that has not budged. It was £59.99 in 2017, and it’s the same now.
That’s despite soaring global inflation and the price of pretty much everything else in our lives having rocketed in price.
By its nature, Excel is the outlier in the suite due to its unrivalled versatility. In the last three years, we’ve seen more improvements than in the previous 13. The biggest being the new calculation engine, which paved the way for a plethora of new functions to slash the time it takes to construct formulas and complete tasks. Add LAMBDAs to the mix, and it’s clear Excel is a noticeably better product.
Furthermore, it has a community buzz like no other. I don’t see people flocking to social media in their droves to express delight about a new Word or PowerPoint feature. Excel is just inherently a different kettle of fish.
The news about Python is a nascent sign that Excel is evolving from a mere data analysis tool to a fully-fledged data science juggernaut.
Next month, Copilot is set to arrive, promising to be Microsoft 365’s answer to ChatGPT. There’s also Office Scripts, which may seem like old news, but it’s still inaccessible on desktop for those of us on Personal plans. Nevertheless, it might be a while before it shoves VBA into a retirement home.
What is the future of the Microsoft 365 plans? Will Excel branch out into separate versions and prohibit users from accessing certain features if they don’t pay the extra bucks?