When I installed my copy of iWork '09 the minimalist box was missing something present in the previous versions – a serial number. I must have searched the box three times for the thin card with the long serial number on it, to no avail. In addition to lacking serialization, iWork '09 also doesn't include online activation.
The component applications, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, do however ship with a registration feature which directs users to register.apple.com to register their software.
After having installed the 30-day trial version of iWork '09 just after its announcement at Macworld Expo, I was convinced that I'd be able to simply enter a serial number into the trial to fully activate the software. According to Apple, this can still be done.
Though retail versions of iWork ‘09 no longer come with serial numbers, you will need a serial number if you are using the iWork ‘09 trial version and decide to purchase the fully-functional version of iWork ‘09
I haven't found out where to get said serial number, so I instead installed the full version of iWork '09 from the installer DVD over top of the trial version.
Can we read into Apple's decision to drop serialization from iWork '09 that Apple may eventually freely distribute the productivity suite with every Mac? Perhaps Apple will instead move to charging for the online component, iWork.com.