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.


Roger Cunard

Apple is certainly moving to the right direction with its beta version of iWork.com. They have built an attractive, solid foundation from which to add new features such as online document creation/editing and change-tracking collaboration.

I do not expect an open system with sharing for Adobe Buzzword, Google Docs, Zoho, etc. I do, however, expect tighter integration with iPhone and MobileMe. Being able to access, create and edit Pages, Keynote and Numbers documents from the iPhone would be a killer app.

Imran Ali

@Wayne – sure, that’s certaily one of the strengths of iWork.com, but perhaps not compelling enough just yet.

@Bob, I’m inclined to agree – that ‘web’ seems to be the best default with clients built around that rather than vice versa…Twitter for example.

@AdamC sure they may have good reasons, but they haven’t demonstrated a competency for web apps (neither has Microsoft). I’m a huge Apple fan, but iWork just seems a little behind the curve.


I am sure Apple have reasons why they are going that direction and I am sure they had studied Google and Zoho as well. These guys are putting money where their mouths are and writers don’t have to risk a single cent when they are wrong.
This is only a beta and I am sure they will refine it further.

Bob Thomson

It’s an interesting area that’s seeing a lot of growth with a mixture between tools that are only targeted at reviewing, tools for collaborative editing and of course some that are fully web-based and some that are more on a desktop application + limited web application model.

Another difference is where some allow real-time communication and commenting between collaborators and some that do not.

We’ve been working on a real-time Silverlight 2 collaboration application for the last year which follows the “review only, completely web based, real-time” paradigm and are just coming out of private Beta. It’s called colaab and is available at:


I guess the main differences between the iWork model and colaab is that we support images, video and documents for commenting, not just documents – and off course all you need is a browser to get going!

I’m not sure I’d like to be tied to a desktop client these days, just look at the change in Joost’s numbers since they ditched theirs:




storm ideas
twitter: movingforwards


I think it’s a good first step, with the initial emphasis being approval. You get a perfect-looking copy of the document online (not looks-a-lot-like-it) where you can mark it up, approve it, and download it if it’s final.

Google emphasizes making the document online and suffers in the appearance department. (At least last I used it.) Microsoft is also using a desktop + web approach. Apple went for great looks and simplicity first, and can then add features.

And good looks is important when it’s document approval time… at least if the document is ultimately intended to look good.

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