Apple today opened up access to its iCloud for iWork beta to the public, following a period of testing which has seen the service gradually becoming more broadly available. Initially, only developers had access, but in July, some non-developers began receiving invites. Now, any user with an Apple ID can test out iWork ahead of its official fall launch. To do so, just visit iCloud.com and sign in.
The launch of iWork for iCloud is a major step for Apple, which is now preparing to compete against Google and Microsoft in cloud applications, in addition to on the desktop and mobile (via the iOS versions of iWork). The company first announced iWork for iCloud at this year’s WWDC event in June, noting then that the iCloud-enabled suite would include support for previously native-only apps Numbers (spreadsheets), Pages (word processing), and Keynote (presentations).
As with Microsoft Office’s 365, the idea with iWork is to combine the best of both worlds – native and cloud applications – into one package. This move will help Apple compete in the enterprise, where employees often use a combination of devices, including desktop and laptop computers, as well as smartphones and tablets.
The iWork for iCloud apps support Safari 6.0.3 or later, Chrome 27.0.1 or later, and Internet Explorer 9.0.8 or later, on both Macs and PCs. Users can create their documents via the web, then they are automatically synced to other Apple devices, including iPads and iPhones.
What isn’t yet clear is if iWork for iCloud will be free to use online, or if access to the service will somehow be bundled in with the three iOS apps which currently sell for $30. However, during this beta trial period the apps are free to try out by anyone.
Apple is preparing to announce a new iPhone on September 10, so we expect we’ll hear some more about iWork for iCloud then.