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Apple Finally Puts iWork.com Out of Its Misery

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With an email message to users of iWork.com last week, Apple has finally admitted that the collaboration service — which never made it out of public beta in the three years since its release in January 2009 — is pointless. At least that’s my reading of the email message; Apple’s marketing take on iWork.com is that it’s no longer necessary given that iWork applications can share documents via iCloud.


Apple said that you will be able to access any documents you might have uploaded to iWork.com through 31 July 2012, after which all those documents will become entirely inaccessible. Apple provides instructions for downloading copies of those documents to your Mac.

This is no great loss — for most people, no loss at all. iWork.com was little more than a slightly souped-up file sharing service. It offered no innovation beyond what was possible with services like Google Docs and Dropbox when it shipped in January 2009, and a September 2009 update made only the most minor of changes (see “iWork.com Enhanced, Does Anyone Care?,” 30 September 2009).

What about Apple’s claim that iCloud replaces iWork.com? It’s total spin, since iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud feature, as it stands today, is completely different from what iWork.com attempted to do. Documents in the Cloud enables you to share documents between your own devices, and only within specific apps. Worse, until Apple updates the iWork suite on the Mac — Keynote, Pages, and Numbers — the only connection between the iOS and Mac versions of those programs is via a Web browser.

There’s nothing wrong with Documents in the Cloud, as long as you see it as a virtual syncing cable and not as a collaborative work tool. iWork.com, weak as it was, at least tried to provide collaboration features in the form of Web-based manual file sharing, comments on shared iWork documents, and an ongoing chat-style discussion. Documents in the Cloud offers none of those features.

Put bluntly, Apple has never understood how to support collaboration, and technologies like iCloud and sandboxing seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

 

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Comments about Apple Finally Puts iWork.com Out of Its Misery
(Comments are closed.)

If they had a passion to have a true collaboration cloud product like they do for devices, then this could have been very special. But they don't seem to, so, those of us looking for file sharing, commenting, sharing across platforms (like many small businesses) will have to look elsewhere.
Anonymous  2012-03-12 12:58
I think that if this truth that has finally sunk into the executive offices at Apple - that they cannot excel at everything, and they're actually bad at some things - it will be better for consumers and let Apple focus on what it does best. If they've learned their lesson they'll send Ping off to pasture next.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-12 13:12
I don't think it's anything as dramatic as that. iWork was a stopgap solution while they built iCloud (and in fact was probably a great testbed for them) and while they also needed a way to share documents online.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-12 13:20
I think you're being too kind, Jeff. The iWork.com product manager I talked at launch was clueless about how people really collaborate, and iCloud offers no collaboration features at all. I can't see any connection between the two that would imply iWork.com was a testbed of any sort. Not to mention the fact that essentially no one used it.
S Mulji  2012-03-12 15:47
With the next version of iWork, I would love if Apple added a feature to allow iWork integrate with MS Office 365. This is still the best business cloud sharing / collaboration tool for SMB's
Benjamin Lowengard  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2012-03-13 03:55
I don't get why Apple killed webdav and simple webservices for their apps on their servers. AS much as I like new products and services - trying to use beta products has the risk that there will be no final product. This applies to all beta products in the wild. But iCloud is a so-so experience now for users of snow leopard and lion (those with both) and idisk provided easy share services like dropbox (and well before dropbox) so I just don't get it.
The Geezer  2012-03-13 11:56
I don't know why everyone here is so negative about iWork.com. You could do some really good things with it like share a slideshow from your web site using Apple's servers and JavaScript so that it could be seen just like Keynote in Safari or even Chrome and slide by slide in IE. It was a really useful tool and you could have degrees of sharing that were really useful too. Comments could be added and files part or full protected.

iCloud doesn't do any of that because that is no longer Apple's strategy and iWork type sharing just got blown off the map by Steve Jobs for a grander vision and a bigger step for Apple (focus for the next few years to support all device sales). I think that it is entirely possible that iWork the software got blown away front eh desk top at the same time: its just not part of their strategy going forward, hence no new version. It doesn't fit the vision for selling more devices which is Apple's raison d'être.. still iWork.com was useful and I used it a fair bie
Daniel James  2012-03-13 15:36
"It offered no innovation beyond what was possible with services like Google Docs and Dropbox"

That's really not true… iCloud will offer no innovation beyond what Dropbox offers, but iWork.com allowed a certain amount of collaboration. Looking beyond what Google Docs offered, iWork had something really important - a proper client. Google Docs seems fine for small, simple documents, but is not appropriate for large documents or those requiring anything but the most basic formatting.

iWork.com had loads of potential had Apple seen it through. I used it a handful of times for sharing meeting minutes with follow board members, and they in turn used it to comment on and revise my original documents. Had Pages integrated those comments (allowing me to accept them) into the original rather than leaving them orphaned on the web, we would have seem something very cool. But they didn't - instead they released a promising 0.9 product and never fullfilled its potential.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-13 15:46
Well, precisely. Collaboration isn't about the client, it's about the interaction, and that's why having Pages to create documents wasn't enough when every other feature of iWork.com was poorly integrated. If comments had appeared directly within Pages, that would have been innovative, besting Google Docs with a real word processor. And Apple could have done that, but they had no imagination and a weak implementation of what they could imagine.