Apple’s iWork.com Disappoints – Not a Google Docs Competitor

During their annual keynote at the MacWorld conference in San Francisco today, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller announced a beta of iWork.com, their cloud-based productivity suite that was rumored last week. iWork.com allows Apple iWork users to upload documents to a web based version of the application for collaboration with other parties — including Windows users.

Once uploaded, documents retain their visual integrity and can be edited or revised on the site by any number of users.

For now, iWork.com will be offered a free, closed beta, but eventually it will become a pay service.

We’ll update this post when more information becomes available, but right now, it appears that Apple is taking a similar approach to web applications as Microsoft. iWork 09 + iWork.com feels a lot like Microsoft’s client + cloud vision, in which desktop software is complimented by an online version of the application that allows for cross platform collaboration and web based storage.

Update: Apple’s iWork.com site is now up, and on second glance it appears that iWork.com competes more with services like Adobe Share or Microsoft Office Live Workspace than it does with Google Docs. iWork.com is not a full fledged software as a service suite of productivity applications. There are no web app versions of Pages, Numbers, or Keynote as part of iWork.com.

Instead, what Apple has created is a service built into the 2009 release of the desktop version of iWork that allows users to share documents via a web interface with other users. Documents can be downloaded in iWork format, Microsoft Office format, and PDF, and users can leave comments on shared items than can be downloaded as part of the shared document by the original author.

There is no full online editing feature of iWork.com, however. So it doesn’t compete with Google Docs — at least not yet. For now, iWork.com is a software + services play that specifically focuses on very basic sharing and collaboration. It’s a nice addition to iWork, but nothing that will really set the world on fire.

When it was initially announced, iWork.com sounded like something that could potentially be very cool. But upon closer examination, it’s actually not all that exciting.

Update 2: Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit also announced a software + services release today at MacWorld. “Microsoft said it would now be easier for Office for Mac users to work with SharePoint and Office Live Workspaces. From within Office for Mac, users will soon be able to upload and download documents they are collaborating on via SharePoint and Office Live Workspaces,” writes Microsoft watching blogger Joseph Tartakoff.

In other words, Office for Mac will more or less match iWork’s new iWork.com feature.

Update 3: Via a comment from SitePoint’s own Kevin Yank:

“As announced during the keynote, iWork.com actually includes integration with Google Docs. You can send a document from iWork.com to Google Docs for editing. Along with new support for Flickr and Facebook in iPhoto ’09, this is an encouraging sign of a new willingness within Apple to participate in the Open Web ecosystem, rather than maintaining building a collection of closed services and file formats that only work with Apple products.”

However, because iWork.com requires iWork, followed by an additional service fee, and at present includes no online editing component, I’m still going to call this one a disappoint for now.

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  • javayahtzee

    Sounds like a pretty exciting more for Apple.

    Must say though, it’d better be pretty good if they plan to compete with Google Docs. Companies and schools might jump on board quickly but unless there’s a definite advantage (beyond eye candy) to the iWork services, seems like most individuals would probably stick with the free stuff.

    I could easily be wrong though, may also depend on how much they charge.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    As announced during the keynote, iWork.com actually includes integration with Google Docs. You can send a document from iWork.com to Google Docs for editing. Along with new support for Flickr and Facebook in iPhoto ’09, this is an encouraging sign of a new willingness within Apple to participate in the Open Web ecosystem, rather than maintaining building a collection of closed services and file formats that only work with Apple products.

  • Jeff Taylor

    “an encouraging sign of a new willingness within Apple to participate in the Open Web ecosystem, rather than maintaining building a collection of closed services and file formats that only work with Apple products.”

    Their willingness is over 10 years old.

    Today Apple’s operating system is Unix-certified, their productivity apps store their session data as XML, with iTunes they transitioned from QuickTime file format to the standardized version of same with ISO MPEG-4 over the past 10 years. WebKit used to be the Mac’s built-in Web rendering, but now it is also the built-in renderer in iPod, iPhone, Google products, Adobe products, and KDE Linux … HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are hardly closed file formats. Even Apple’s website includes only standardized technologies — there is no Flash, no Windows Media, not even Java. It may be the most “Web 2.0″ site in the Fortune 500 as a matter of fact.

  • http://www.magain.com/ mattymcg

    Their willingness is over 10 years old.

    Too bad about iTunes and the iPhone … hardly open systems!

  • Anonymous

    Stop promoting all this close-source non free applications please. It’s nonsese. IWorks, yeah right, thanks for the tip, but Google Docs is free.

  • randywehrs

    Judging by what I just read, here and elsewhere about iWorks is that it will be a while before anyone is able to realistically compete with Google Docs. If you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend that you do, and you’ll see what I mean. It looks like iWorks might have more fancy bells and whistles, but for all practical purposes, it isn’t worth it to me.

  • Jim

    N.b.: “complemented”, not “complimented”.

  • AppBeacon

    @randywehrs Zoho’s suite destroys Google’s suite. Zoho has the closest feel to desktop software of any competitor. It really is that good. Google Docs is clunky and poorly integrated with Google Apps for Your Domain.

    With the exception of Gmail, I rely solely on Zoho. Zoho also has an email system (newly released). I haven’t tried it and am too invested in Gmail to make the switch.

    You can even try out Zoho with your Google credentials. Give them a shot. You won’t likely go back to Google Docs.

  • AppBeacon

    Oops. Got tied up in responding to @randywehrs. I forgot to make my main point. I’m not impressed at all with this new iWork SaaS or collaboration setup. I’m even less impressed with Apple tying this into Google Docs.

    “this is an encouraging sign of a new willingness within Apple to participate in the Open Web ecosystem” Hardly. It’s a discouraging sign of a continuing willingness within Apple to participate in the Google Web ecosystem. Showing support for Zoho, Live, etc would have been an encouraging sign. Instead we get yet another tie to Google. It’s like a shotgun wedding waiting to happen. They are so supportive of each other, you have to wonder when the merger is going to take place.

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