Apple’s annual September media event in San Francisco focused largely on the release of the iPhone 7 and 7+ with a dash of Twitter humor over the new AirPod wireless earbuds. (We’re still wondering if there’s a Find Your AirPod app…) However, the less extolled take-away could be big for small business.
Apple announced they were taking iWork to the iCloud to attempt to compete with Microsoft 365 and Google Docs for office product market share. iWork is Apple’s counterpart to Microsoft Office which offers three component apps – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. CloudPro reports, “The move sees Apple play catch-up with Microsoft and Google, and underlines Apple’s aim of becoming more of a player in the enterprise market.”
While the “real time collaboration” presentation probably would have seemed more innovative three years ago as other office software products were going to the cloud, the key for Apple users is iWork’s cross-platform use and real time collaboration. According to Apple, people can work collaboratively in real time across devices (from an Apple laptop, iPad or iPhone). Apple iWork for iCloud has been available in beta format for over a year, and while there is no official release date for the finished product, the company says it will be launching “soon.”
According to CloudPro, “The collaboration also features private and public modes with a participant list that shows who is working on the document, each user sporting a different colour. The public and private modes determine when iWork syncs files.”
Bringing Apple's iWork into the cloud for real time collaboration across devices is a big start - albeit a long overdue one - toward capturing the enterprise market. However, PCs are still prevalent in the workplace and while Apple has opened up iWork to PC users who have an Apple ID via iCloud, people will have to see a clear and immediate benefit to changing their office software. Early adoption of Apple's iWork for iCloud in the classroom may help pave the way for iWorks future.
In his keynote speech, Tim Cook noted that education has always been a focus of the company. With Apple's iWork, this becomes a smart long-term strategy for capturing the next generation of consumers as students begin adopting the software in the classroom. According to Digital Trends, “Apple’s contribution to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative has been extended to 114 schools, including classroom and device support for 4,500 teachers, to whom Apple has donated MacBooks and iPads for use in the classroom.”
While Apple waits for this next generation of consumers to bring their iWork habit to the workplace, it will be interesting to see if Apple’s iWork for iCloud provides enough benefits that people are willing to “unlearn” what they know about Microsoft Office or Google Docs to adopt this new solution. The price tag may help entice people to give it a try: iWork will be free for anyone who buys a new computer or device from Apple, or anyone who has already installed it. Upgrades, essentially, are free as would be the case on iCloud. Otherwise, iWork apps are $20 for each computer or $10 for an iOs device.