Cloud-Based iWork a Must for Apple

P. J. Connolly began writing for IT publications in 1997 and has a lengthy track record in both news and reviews. Since then, he's built two test labs from scratch and earned a reputation as the nicest skeptic you'll ever meet. Before taking up journalism, P. J. was an IT manager and consultant in San Francisco with a knack for networking the Apple Macintosh, and his love for technology is exceeded only by his contempt for the flavor of the month. Speaking of which, you can follow P. J. on Twitter at pjc415, or drop him an email at
By P. J. Connolly  |  Posted 2011-08-03 Email Print this article Print

It makes sense that Apple is apparently planning to make full-fledged web apps out of its iWork suite, as AppleInsider reported Tuesday; it's one of the few areas where iWork has to take a back seat to Microsoft Office. I'm hard pressed to think of anyone I know who has looked at the core applications of the two suites - word processing, spreadsheets and presentations - and found iWork to be lacking, but cloud support is perhaps iWork's weakest feature today.

The problem with iWork's cloud support is twofold; the first half of the problem is that Apple's trying to recreate for its touch-driven iOS devices three applications that were designed for the classic keyboard-plus-mouse scenario. That makes for a rather limited feature set, and it's obvious that for the moment, the iWork apps for iOS are strictly for starting work, which will then be shipped up to the cloud and downloaded for later revision on a "real computer" running "real iWork." That's the second part of the problem: the reality that Apple's mobile productivity apps reflect a small subset of what's possible in iWork.


Users need more from iWork's cloud features than simple file storage and retrieval; whatever solution Apple chooses has to be more reliable than Office 365 from Day One.

That's not going to satisfy most people for long, and the solution for Apple is to do with iWork what Microsoft has done with Office 365 - make all of an application's functionality and features available in the cloud. (Or, at the very least, it must do so with all of the appropriate and relevant features.)But, as I've said before, the problem with serving applications from the cloud is downtime; dismissing downtime as a mere matter of 15 minutes in a month doesn't cut any ice when those 15 minutes happen to land at a time when there isn't time to wait for the cloud to come back to life. That's going to be the tough part for Apple's engineers, even with a spiffy new datacenter available for serving up cloud-based applications. |

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