Yesterday Apple held its annual WorldWide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, where they unveiled the new iOS 7 mobile operating system and the new OS X Mavericks Mac OS.

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As part of the keynote, they also introduced iWork in iCloud, which bought their iWork desktop applications suite to their cloud computing solution.

What is iWork?

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If you’ve never heard of it before, iWork is Apple’s application suite to rival Microsoft Office. Consisting of Pages, Numbers and Keynote, iWork is available for both iOS and OS X.

Pages is the equivalent of Microsoft Word, Numbers the equivalent of Excel and Keynote the equivalent of Powerpoint. iWork costs substantially less than Microsoft Office – in total it costs £21 for the three apps on iOS and £42 for the apps on OSX. In comparison, the full featured Microsoft Office suite can cost over £125.

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iWork in iCloud demo – editing a spreadsheet

iWork in iCloud – the run-through

iWork in iCloud brings Apple’s iWork productivity suite to its iCloud servers. It allows users to edit their iWork documents from a web browser or a desktop and have them synced together.

The changes appear on all your devices and one of the best features is that iWork in iCloud is designed to run from within the web browser, independent of the operating system being used.

During the keynote yesterday, Apple demonstrated this by using iWork in iCloud on both Safari for Mac and Chrome on Windows 8. The changes were instant – add a slide to Keynote, edit some information in Pages or Add a formula in Numbers and all the changes are available on the other device.

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iWork and Microsoft Office

In past years, there has been one major feature overlooked by Apple – being able to edit files created with Microsoft Office or save files so that they can also be read in Microsoft Office. The latest iteration of iWork brings this functionality, meaning you can use iWork in iCloud to handle all your productivity needs, whether it’s an iWork file or Microsoft Office file.

The compatibility between iWork and Microsoft Office also opens new opportunities for businesses using cloud collaboration. Being able to store all your documents on iCloud offers a web-based method to have access to all your documents. N

o longer do you need to store your documents on your computer hard drive and periodically sync them to a web-based solution – now everything can be accessible via a web browser.

Possible pitfalls…

iWork in iCloud may not be for all users but for Apple users, it could be a blessing. It will still have its potential challenges though:

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Storage

iCloud comes with a 5GB Free storage option with additional storage available as an add-on. For Apple to persuade users to store all their documents, they may need to rethink their storage allowances.

E.g. a 50-slide presentation with large high resolution graphics could result in a file size of several hundred megabytes. For a manager who has to lead presentations every day, 5GB storage could be exceeded in a matter of days or weeks.

Collaboration

For iWork in iCloud to truly rival Office 365 and Google Docs, Apple needs to provide necessary tools for companies to collaborate online. E.g. Google Docs allows multiple users to update a document at the same time online and see the changes in real-time.

Apple is yet to divulge all the details of iWork in iCloud but it’s more than likely that it won’t feature collaboration tools to compete with rival offerings.

Uptime

One thing Apple has suffered from is intermittent outages in its cloud offerings. From the days of MobileMe to the present state of iCloud, features such as iMessage and Facetime which rely on iCloud have sometimes been unavailable.

For users to consider switching to the cloud, Apple needs to be able to guarantee that a user always has access to iWork in iCloud.

E.g. iWork may prove to be very useful if a colleague needs to make tweaks to a presentation whilst you are on the way to deliver the presentation to a prospective client. The functionality is very useful but what happens if your data is not accessible when you need it most?

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iWork in iCloud – the verdict

Apple was not expected to announce iWork in iCloud yesterday. The announcement came as a surprise and the demonstration looked very fluid. The concept is handy, especially as it will allow you to edit documents from any device (on the go, on your PC or on your Mac).

There are a few pitfalls that Apple needs to resolve and factor before the launch of iWork in iCloud later this year. Unless they can ensure access to documents whenever a user needs it, Apple may find that far fewer of the 300 million iCloud users adopt iWork in iCloud than they expect.

Will you use iCloud in iWork? Do you have another tool that you use, such as a true online collaboration tool? Let us know in the comments below!