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iWork ’09 No Competition for Mac Office 2011

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The new Mac Office 2011 (s msft), currently in development, will easily best iWork ’09, and with every feature update demonstrates just how far behind iWork (s aapl) 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

Back in January 2009, when iWork ’09 debuted, a lot was made of the 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 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)

88 Responses to “iWork ’09 No Competition for Mac Office 2011”

  1. “Worse, Pages, and especially Numbers, struggle with large documents.”

    Good lord. I work with both Pages and Word, and I can tell you from frequent experience that only one of those applications pukes on larger documents. And it’s not Pages. Word creates more unnecessary work for me than any other “productivity” app out there. Gah.

    And one more thing: the grotesque feature bloat in Word is a massive liability, not something to be praised. It’s fat and stupid.

  2. How can you compare iWork with MS Office???
    iWork never was intended to compete with Office in a business enviroment.
    Howerver for (SO)HO enviroment iWork is the best! Most certainly if you also consider the difference in price!
    This article almost sounds like the MS website “why you should buy a Windows PC”.

  3. Listen office does not even compare to iwork, it is in a totally different league. I will never use office. People that think office is better than iWork need to re evaluate their life

  4. Office – any version – will be a genuine competitor with iWork when the former STOPS CRASHING!!!

    When I add up the time I’ve spent tracking down problems with Office for Mac after it has crashed for the umpteenth time in any given week, plus the fact that Microsoft seem incapable of designing a product that is really and truly compatible with the PC version, or rendering proper assistance, the premise of this article starts to look pretty laughable.

    Sure, iWork has problems, but wasting days of my life that I will never get back is not one of them.

  5. I have to say that since I’ve been working with iWork my life changed. It’s so easy to use, so many attractive things, even numbers tells you for example that: Interest = (Principal*Rate*Time) but in Excel you have: A3 = A5*A6*A7 what’s that? In Keynote Graphics never were so easy to use, for me it’s a nightmare to start again and again if I want to make changes to the graphics in Excel, but in Numbers you just move it, enlarge it, change color almost instantly = EASY.

    I have been reading reviews about Office 2011 and they say to wait, it’s not finished, and it has some software errors (as everything Microsoft does, check it’s new Windows phone), you can read the the New York Times, and CNBC and lots more about this.

    Compatibility: Well I made my Masters Degree with iWork, at the office I work everyday with iWork and everybody around me sends me Word documents, PowerP and Excel to check the State’s Income and Outcome for example. I’ve never had any problem. This is in my own experience, I don’t know other people having problems.

    What Microsoft should really do is remake the messenger for Mac users, it’s really terrible.

  6. I think most commentors here using iWork corporately must be in small business or design. I (in the UK, maybe it’s a regional thing) have never received a document in pages format at work. MS Office is what the world works with. Having the ability to use that software with my platform of choice is what makes the new Mac Office suite golden for me. I like the simplicity of iWork, but until I can use even simple spreadsheets (hyperlink to a file, anyone?) in Numbers, Excel will always be a winner.

  7. I have recently switched from windows to mac. And I love office. However, I have found so many problems with mac office. Word constantly kicks me out. I keep reporting all problems to apple but I am not sure really what to do.

  8. The IPAD knocked out 50% of the laptops at Stores. Looks like IWORK is taking over??? Sorry Microsofties. Pages is much easier to use then Word. Numbers is way more advanced graphically then Excel. Is it time again for Microsoft to copy Apple like it did the Mac. The author even admits Keynote is much better then Powerpoint.

  9. The trouble with MS Office for Mac is that it crashes and seems to have difficulties handling complex multipage documents with graphics and linked text blocks (delay in opening, delay in saving). Until I see a real stable version of Office for Mac, I won’t believe Office has any other advantage to offer than being the standard.
    Years of development by the richest company for such an unstable result is a shame.

  10. I realize this is a bit old, but I wanted to make a few comments here..

    1) The *biggest* problem I have with Office for Mac is that it ignores published Apple UI guidelines. This is one of the hallmarks of the platform, and one of the primary reasons I switched to Mac from Linux. I assume that the point is for PC users to feel “at home” in MS Office for Mac, but please, don’t ignore the Mac users that actually use things like keyboard shortcuts (which, believe it or not, are plentiful on Mac)

    2) Problem 2 – People grew up in a broken home of document creation, and while Pages tries to be a solution to this, Word perpetuates the problem (but has gotten better). For some unholy reason, people designing “word processing” software in the ages of dinosaurs got the sensation that users need to be able to individually boldface, italicize, and adjust font sizes by the point, and people could just adjust position by using tab, space, CR’s, and the like. This is a terrible way to write any document. Templates and styles are the way of the future, and once you embrace them, you will be amazed at how much your writing will improve. Word has finally taken steps to go there, but it seems that the lack of individual knobs for the settings are a constant complaint in Pages. This will fade as time marches forward, because it appears Word is going the way of styles as well.

    Lastly, to those of you writing academic papers in Word, are you crazy? – I can’t even imagine putting that kind of effort into something as flaky as Word. A few page business draft, sure – but a 75 page Thesis? Have you seriously never used TeX? Yeah, the interface sucks, and it’s a pain to set up initially, but I haven’t worked on a single paper that wasn’t written out in either Tex or LaTeX. It is the ultimate in separating out the information from the formatting, and your paper is in plain old text, which you can view, edit, and open on *any* platform, and produces FAR better output than either of these other options. The learning curve is steep, but if your life is producing documents for academia, it’s well worth looking into.

    My .02

  11. Office for Mac to me always has been clunky, feature-overladen, slow, and the UI far from intuitive. The only reason I keep using it, is in order to be as compatible as possible, when exchanging files with PC users of Office.

  12. Hamranhansenhansen

    iWork was never about having more features than MS Office. In fact, having fewer features is a feature. If you want more features, buy MS Office, by all means.

    The iPad apps *are* an update, not a reason for no update.

    In the past we could rely on a new iWork every year, until this year. We have never been able to rely on a new MS Office every year.

  13. Bizarrerod

    Allright, its got the same features as iWork plus some thingies most people won’t use. But even if you accept that “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” crap, you should note that office mac 2011 is going to be released 2 years after iWork 2009, and that’s a big deal… let’s see how the next version of iWork turns out.

  14. What’s the point of this post?

    I bet most of 2011 soon to be released softwares won’t get any competition from a released since 2009 softwares… It’s not because it’s the case with old OS X version and newest version of Windows, that it should also be the case for Office suite.

    I thought I had to use Office for Mac 2008, but it’s really painful. It’s heavy, it’s buggy and constantly crashing. I was using iWork for my personal work, but I naturally switch to iWork for my professional work too.

    Some exports or sharing with windows machines are perhaps not 100% accurate… so what? In my environment, it doesn’t really matter. I need to get the job done… that’s it. I’m even tended to send my iWork files also since most of my contacts do use Macs now.

    I don’t use PivotTable and can adjust my photos with iPhoto and Aperture3. I’m perfectly happy with Mail, iCal, Address Book and Today (from Second Gear)… so what would be the reason for me to change? Actually none!

    Expect in some very specific work environment, we can live without Office, mainly when we know it won’t be no Upgrade Path.

    Even if $119/199 could look an attractive price for Office, it’s still way more than the $49 I paid for iWork who’s covering 90% of people needs.

    Nonetheless, Microsoft is always announcing software 12+ months before the real release, teasing everyone with some “amazing” features that reveal, in moment of the release, to never work properly, as expected… or also available in competition product. They can’t fix the current version, so they tease everyone with a hypothetical better future version… it’s kind of lame.

    In the other hand, Apple is known to keep everything secret. So no one knows if a new iWork update/version will not be released even before Office Mac 2011.

    It could, and I’m sure it will, happen anytime soon (mainly in regard of the lack of update on So, I won’t spend a penny on Microsoft anymore. I’m just gonna pass this time.

    Bye bye Microsoft, it was the last piece of software I was using.


  15. Steve in Hampton Roads

    In 2009, I bought a 17″ MBP, after loving the use of my iPhone and airport extreme base station. I have tried to use iWork, but it doesn’t come close to what our business needs even with the ability to save as ppt, etc. The reason? When our instuctors who are all using PPT open the files, text is in the wrong place, etc. Same problem with crappy Office 2008. And I was shocked to have just learned Office 2007, which I really loved the ribbon, only to learn that the idiots running the MS Mac business unit thought it was more important to create yet another interface!

    I’m delighted to learn Office 2011 brings the ribbon back. I find it far superior to any of the iWork interface, primarily because it’s what I’m used to, which I believe will be the case for most it’s target market: people who switched to a Mac, but still need to use Office products.

    I’m a huge Apple fan, and I just bought a 27″ Quad Core i5 iMac with 16gb ram and a 27″ external HP monitor for our new Office. While I love these products, I don’t find iWork anything close to serving our business needs, primarily since most of our clients are either from the US Government or are government contractors.

  16. A lot of folks here are missing the point in comparing office and iWork. MS office is a very extensive product and is designed for the corporate user in mind and has extensive functionality. It can be complicated for many users and a blessing for others.

    iWork is more designed for the casual and home user, simple and easy to use, just enough to do what you need. Comparing iWork to MS office is like comparing a two seater plane to an Airbus, sure they are both planes but with a different design goal in mind

  17. I was stunned by reading that the reviewer prefers Word to Pages, “especially for large documents”. He must come from a different galaxy. Pages is dramatically superior to Word in every respect (except learning curve, make the investment).
    Excel is dramatically better than Numbers as far as features and power — Numbers is better for the smaller, prettier spreadsheets that comprise 90% of spreadsheets.
    KeyNote is far prettier than PowerPoint, and it’s easier to develop a logical storyline due to indexing/outlining, and it’s better graphically once you’ve learned to integrate Preview for images and, say OmniGraffle, for complex diagrams. But PowerPoint still has a competitive feature set and far more available templates and clipart.
    Overall, I switched from a power Office user to an iWork user and feel the move was justified. (Except for the occaisional advanced Excel application.)

  18. I haven’t purchased Ms Office since Office 2004, and I only bought that because work required that I have Virtual PC. iWork has been my preferred Office suite since 2005 or 2006, and Ms Office has never given me a single reason to switch—especially when I can get five iWork installs for about 40% of the price of one Ms Office install.

  19. I agree with other commenters – It not a good comparison to compare them. Perhaps if the rumors are true with iworks 11, THEN iworks 11 and office 2011 can be properly compared. Of course when comparing newer to older 99.9% of the time new products will win out.

    I believe each product has a proper place to use. for example, coming from (windows) excel 2003, I found that it was a lot easier to complete my daily tasks in numbers with their functions and graphs.

    That being said, its good to see Microsoft updating their product to run properly on Macs (I heard it is even running in Cocoa).

  20. feature bloat.

    just get Office 2008 to work as intended and I’d buy it. office needs a snow leopard-style code overhaul. the last thing it needs is new “features” like image editing. what a joke.

  21. Michael

    Bigger isn’t necessarily better. I just want a word processor which does word processing and not photo editing, graphic design or anything else. The more “features” they add the more complicated, bloated and in some ways less useful the product becomes. For that matter why do they feel the need to keep adding to the product as if it wasn’t complete? What’s next? Will it be making my morning coffee, reading my blogs and telling my FaceBook friends what I’m doing? Who cares! Just give me a plain old easy to use word processor.

  22. guy that tried office and iwork

    that guy is a pc fanboy or what?
    iwork is way better than office
    office is so complicated and incoherent!
    I don’t care about features and I’m sure that most people don’t
    iwork has all I need plus extras like reflexions, themes, 3d graphs that look way better than the office ones, instant alpha, magic move transitions. but most of all… its easy and coherent.

    by the way, I don’t use either.. I use google docs and export as html =)
    open standards ftw =D

  23. guy that tried office and iwork

    that guy is a pc fanboy or what?
    iwork is way better than office
    office is so complicated and incoherent!
    I don’t care about features and I’m sure that most people don’t
    iwork has all I need plus extras like reflexions, themes, 3d graphs that look way better than the office ones, instant alpha, magic move transitions. but most of all… its easy and coherent.

    by the way I don’t use either.. I use google docs and export as html =)
    open standards ftw =D

  24. Leon Caverne

    Office 2011 has thousands of features. Most of the people will only need a few of them. I dumped Office in favor of iWork at home and in the office. iWork is sufficient for writing specifications, creating business letters, faxes, handling 3 years of web-site kpis and creating stunning presentations (and using those kpis from numbers easily). The only thing I am really missing in numbers (iWork) are pivot tables. I have been living very well with iWork and without Office.

  25. I don’t think you can even compare iWork to MS Office. iWork is a fast, lightweight, user-friendly way to quickly create simple documents like invoices or short letters. I use Pages all the time because it’s so fast and has a smooth, simple interface – especially compared to the overweight, bulky and ridiculously overcrowded button-hell of MS Office.

    Serious office work consisting of complex scientific excel sheets or the writing of an entire book, I wouldn’t trust to iWork. You’ll need a real office suite. Even Open Office is still an option – although progress on that seems to have halted just as iWork.

  26. Or for free you can use Open Office. Not as pretty in the UI department, but it is truly cross platform compatible. OpenOffice loos and works the same on Windows, OS X and Linux. Andd up until now has been the best way of opening MS’s docx files on my Mac.
    For me the killer feature in Office2011 is Communicator Client, so I can now fully participate in the Office Comms environment (until now I had another Windows PC that was basically just a $500 telephone) or I had to run Windows in a VM on my Mac.
    Outlook is a HUGE improvement over Entourage, as it works just liek the Windows one, but that also means, it has all the same crappy features as Outlook on Windows – poor suport for iCAL, but Contacts does pick up synch with Address Book – pretty much in real time.
    If it was my money though, it really is hard to justify the cost for personal use. Student Edition – again, nothing there most students couldn’t do with OpenOffice or iWork.

  27. Andrei Timoshenko

    Part of the reason I bought my first Mac was seeing my friend use Keynote and Pages. They are not really great tools for collaboration (since few other people have them) but the documents they produce look a hell of a lot better than their Powerpoint and Word equivalents, and can be produced with a lot less effort. Receive a presentation in PDF, for instance, and it is immediately obvious whether it was done in PowerPoint or Keynote… Watch a well-made one on the screen, and this is doubly obvious – Keynote knocks the socks off Powerpoint for making slides well-aligned and pretty.

    Office 2010 (never have used Office on the Mac) is a very good piece of software, and the ribbon, especially now that it has been tweaked from Office 2007 is a great user interface paradigm for ‘power’ tasks. But have you ever tried dealing with 3rd party fonts or charts, tables, and diagrams in Word? The program still forces me to create charts in Excel and paste them in as bitmaps in Word, or risk the whole document being screwed, especially if it is a large document. I can understand problems with this in 1995 but in 2010? Apple’s omnipresent VoiceOver feature is pretty useful for proofreading your documents as well…

  28. I have always felt that iWork lagged behind office, even office 2 version ago was better than iWork now … with the exception of Keynote vs Powerpoint that is. I would never write a presentation in Powerpoint but then I never write anything longer than a page in Pages and I never even launch numbers.

    I hope microsoft do a good job with Office 2011 as the current version is a bit clunky on Snow leopard