iWork.com: Apple Takes a Bite of the Cloud

Copying to iWork.comWith no Stevenote at this year’s Macworld, the world not only awaited Apple’s 2009 lineup with bated breath, but also the company’s inaugural Schillergram. Sadly, Apple’s announcements were widely accepted as being underwhelming, lacking the razzle-dazzle of previous Macworld keynotes; no iPods, Mac minis or iPhones, but a slew of application updates and the death of DRM for music (yay!)

Om provided a great overview and perhaps the most pertinent release for web workers was the beta launch of iWork.com, Apple’s foray into web-based office productivity applications.

For many Web Workers, applications such as Google Docs and Zoho are invaluable collaboration and productivity tools, with Google setting the standard in online office suites. iWork isn’t a straight web-based office replacement for Apple’s desktop software, but an enhanced suite of desktop applications that uses a handful of web-based features specifically for collaboration.

Experimenting with Pages ’09 this afternoon, the application now includes a Share menu, enabling users to share a document by email. Collaborators are invited by email notifications that link to an online view of the document. Sadly, neither collaborators or document owners can edit the document online, but simply annotate it with brief notes.

Shared Pages '09 document

The online web view is cross-platform, but strangely iWork insists on using Apple’s own Mail client to send invitations to collaborators – irritating if you’re using a web-based service such as Gmail – but perhaps a subtle mechanism for keeping users in Apple’s constellation of services.

I suspect most web workers may not find iWork’s collaboration and sharing features useful at all. There’s some value in vertically integrating desktop applications and with online features, but I have a feeling Apple would have better served users by building hooks to existing online suites. How about a ‘Send to Google Docs’ or ‘Send to Zoho’ feature alongside ‘Send to iWork.com’?

Despite Eric Schmidt’s seat on Apple’s board, there’s little in the way of deep integration between Google’s ever evolving web-applications world and Apple’s elegant desktop. With Microsoft’s Office 14 for Web due in coming months, it’s hard to see where Apple can compete with Microsoft, Google and Zoho.

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