Clearing up the confusion around Microsoft’s naming convention

November 3, 2022

Confused by Microsoft’s productivity naming convention changes? Lost in the Microsoft productivity suite maze?

Microsoft's ever-evolving product bundle branding, configurations and naming conventions can create confusion around what bundles are available and what exactly is included in them and at what cost.

We get it. Similar product names and feature overlaps can create confusion, most often leading to excess and underused licensing and spending more IT budget than is really needed.

Microsoft's recent rebranding to Microsoft 365 presents potential for even more confusion amongst the end user community.

This article will seek to demystify those recent changes and steer you to the visibility and clarity you need to optimise your license investment and IT budget.

Office 365 and Microsoft 365 rebrand

Microsoft recently announced they are rebranding the familiar "Microsoft Office" to "Microsoft 365" to bring naming conventions in line with the growing collection of productivity and security apps available from Microsoft.

You are, I am sure, already familiar with the name “Microsoft 365” because they also renamed Office 365 subscription plans to Microsoft 365 two years ago – a change to the plans available if not a full rebrand of the marketing naming conventions.

Still confused?  The source of the confusion probably comes from partial rebranding of configs available to buy whilst continuing to maintain the Office identity alongside Microsoft 365. 

To help make sense of the recent changes we thought a historical timeline would help…

Timeline Graphic-1


Microsoft 365 first emerged as an enterprise-level licensing bundle. The M365 bundle included Office 365 and Windows 10 Pro (now Windows 11), and Enterprise Mobility + Security, providing a single complete productivity and security solution. 


Fast forward to 2020.  Microsoft announced that Office 365 would officially become Microsoft 365. And as part of that, Office 365 subscriptions for small and medium-sized businesses and the enterprise-level Office 365 ProPlus were renamed to Microsoft 365. 


Now, the changes go deeper by removing the remaining Office branding. 

What's next?

"In the coming months,, the Office mobile app, and the Office app for Windows will become the Microsoft 365 app, with a new icon, a new look, and even more features," Microsoft states.

As part of the rebrand, traditional Office apps like Excel, Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint will all come under the Microsoft 365 umbrella rather than be referred to as part of Microsoft Office.

Perhaps somewhat confusingly, there will be some “Office” branding still out there in the form of Office 365 subscriptions. These subscriptions are as follows:

• Office 365 E1

• Office 365 E3

• Office 365 E5

We expect these plans are here to stay given they provide sufficient office applications and features for end users at lower costs. However, for larger organisations that require comprehensive security tools, compliance, and device management features, Microsoft 365 is the way forward.


  1. Microsoft 365 is a product bundle which includes Office 365
  1. Microsoft 365 is also the official brand of Microsoft's productivity suite. Previously Office 365 was the key brand, but this changed in April 2020. The new naming convention reflected Microsoft's strategy of providing a single complete productivity platform for its customers.
  1. Office 365 is a cloud-based suite of productivity apps comprising various permutations of Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and more.
  1. Office 365 is a component of Microsoft 365 but can also be purchased separately as part of the Office 365 E1, E3 and E5 plans. 

So, what's the real issue here?

Perhaps the brand evolution could have happened faster to reduce the confusion haze but one thing is clear - Microsoft 365 is the future.  And with the recent changes, if you are negotiating any contract renewal with Microsoft and you already have Office 365, you can expect enthusiastic encouragement from Microsoft to upgrade to Microsoft 365.

Clearer branding and naming conventions is a welcome development – it hopefully makes things clearer.  Clarity is good - it helps the end user in deciding which configs to buy for their differing categories of users, each with specific needs.

Ultimately though, the current Office 365 vs Microsoft 365 debate comes down to what is suitable for your business and your users.

But how do you know what plans you really need?

Well, do you know what licensing you are utilising vs what you are purchasing? If you do, are you managing those licenses to an optimised position?  And do you know your license utilisation to the level of exactly which elements are being used by each end user?

Overspending on Microsoft licenses is a common problem confronting most licence buyers. In fact, Microsoft's own research has recognised that "many organisations could reduce Microsoft licensing costs by 44% by improving how they purchase and better manage inactive licenses".

It’s the obvious dilemma facing every buyer – we know that we are under-utilising a significant proportion of the licencing we buy but we don’t know exactly where we have over-provided or even sometimes where we have licenses that are not being used at all.

Want to manage your Microsoft licensing effectively?

iPortalis has helped our customers save millions of pounds on their Microsoft licensing by arming them with the information and insights to right-size their plans and remove any bloated licensing from their spend - to enable them to actively and continuously manage their license deployment efficiently.

To manage your licensing effectively you need detailed granular information on who uses what and when plus intelligent insights on where the greatest savings are lurking.

We deliver this with our Microsoft licensing Health Check: a complimentary review of your Microsoft environment, analysing your utilisation data and providing recommendations to optimise your licensing after only 14 days.

Our complimentary health check is easy to deploy via an Azure hosted app and will give you an assessment of the health of your licensing – it will identify potential savings within your current licensing estate and arm you to right size your requirements at your next contract true-up or renewal.

To learn more, book a demo with one of our specialists.

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