Apple is taking some big steps up in its bid to challenge the likes of Google and Microsoft in cloud apps, and one of those involves a big upgrade to its iWork suite: Pages word processing, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentation programs — all previously native-only — are now coming to iCloud to work across 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, the company announced today during its WWDC developer conference.
It’s important to note, though, that like iOS 7 and other new things introduced today, iWork for iCloud is in beta for developers, with a wider release down the line.
That also means more limited functionality for early users. Use Firefox or Opera? You’re out of luck for now. Ditto if you want to use iWork for iCloud for sending links to a document (as you would in, say, Google, Dropbox or Box); view a version history; chart editing; table editing in Pages and Keynote; writer presenter notes in Keynote; or printing. These are all “future features,” Apple notes.
The deep integration into iCloud comes ahead of “awesome new releases of both our Mac and iOS [iWork] suites” Apple said today.
The significance of this is that it will let the company continue to give users the ability to work across both desktop and cloud-based environments, and shows that it continues to offer alternatives for enterprise users.
In keeping with following where users are working today, Apple also introduced support for Word, Excel and PowerPoint files from Microsoft. Using the document manager in iWork, users can make edits in these programs and then share the files either in iWork, Office or PDF using iCloud Mail. No mention of Google Docs during the presentation or on Apple’s official iWork for iCloud microsite.
Introducing iWork for iCloud could also be a precursor to Apple taking even more of its services into the browser. The company is widely expected to unveil a cloud-based, streaming music service that will compete with the likes of Spotify (which it did later in the presentation with iRadio).
In a demonstration today at the WWDC keynote, Apple showed how iWork for iCloud worked both Internet Explorer and Chrome, as well as Safari. Across different browsers, through different editing tasks, the apps behaved just as responsively as a native desktop app would work.
What is still not clear is whether Apple will make its software free to use in the cloud, at least at a basic tier. If the aim is to be competitive with Google, offering iWork for iCloud for free seems like table stakes.
We’ve reached out to ask if it will be offered at a charge, and whether prices will vary for those who have downloaded the native apps.