The new Mac Office 2011, currently in development, will easily best iWork ’09, and with every feature update demonstrates just how far behind iWork has fallen. The latest video preview only increases the value gap between the two office suites.
While the feature tease is minimal, the video shows off Sparklines, in-cell mini-graphs of visual data straight from Excel 2010 for Windows, as well as new PivotTable report designs and layouts. Office-wide, users will now have the ability to do “basic photo editing,” with options like color correction, as well as more advanced ones like background removal, but that’s the small stuff.
The big deal is Mac Office 2011 touts a level of compatibility with Office for Windows “that’s never been achieved before,” from the user-interface Ribbon of Office for Windows to the nuts and bolts of cross-platform document and data sharing. In Word, that means requiring pages printed in Word for the Mac and Windows be identical on paper. In Excel, arguably the biggest compatibility effort was the restoration of Visual Basic, version 6.5, same as the Windows version. Entourage has been replaced with Outlook and full support for Exchange. PowerPoint, well, with the exception of better cross-platform document compatibility, PowerPoint still looks to suck compared to the ease-of-use and pretty slides of Keynote.
Unfortunately, that hardly makes up for the rest of iWork for the Mac. Numbers, Pages, and Keynote are far less compatible when exporting in Microsoft Office formats, and none are as feature-replete. Worse, Pages, and especially Numbers, struggle with large documents. The problem with iWork is that it badly needs updating, but there is no guarantee of that happening this year, unlike Mac Office.
While it’s true iWork for the iPad was released this year, it, like OS X, is languishing in favor of iOS. iWork for the Mac is quickly approaching years between updates. While it’s fair to say that having the iWork team pivot to produce an iPad version is responsible for the dearth of updates, what’s the excuse for iWork.com?
Back in January 2009, when iWork ’09 debuted, a lot was made of the iWork.com beta, which let people view and share, but not edit documents. Eighteen months later, it’s still a beta, and you still can’t edit documents. Even worse, Apple has thus far failed to leverage iWork.com as the logical way to seamlessly synchronize documents between the iPad and Mac. Even the rumored iWork update is out of date, the most recent being “iWork ’10 for Dummies” placeholders being seen in at sites like Amazon France with three months left in the year.
Without an update to compete against Mac Office 2011, that leaves price as iWorks ’09’s best feature, $79 retail, $49 with the purchase of a new Mac. However, even on price Mac Office is competing better than ever before at $119 for the Student Edition, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and $199 for the Home and Office Edition that adds Outlook.
There’s a reason Mac Business Unit PR types can brag that Mac Office is on about 70 percent of Macs (a phenomenal adoption rate) and one that would only be beat by Office for the iPad. Please.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Web Worker Survey 2010 (subscription req’d)