Business users losing faith in Apple's iWork office suite

Business users losing faith in Apple's iWork office suite

Summary: Apple's office suite for OS X hasn't received much love lately and business users are starting to consider their options. Is Apple's obsession with iOS ports killing its desktop software business?

Business users losing faith in iWork - Jason O'Grady

Business Mac users are beginning to question their loyalty to iWork, Apple's office suite and prime competitor to Microsoft Office for Mac. Although iWork started out strong, it hasn't received a significant update since iWork '09 was released almost four years ago. 

Required Reading: Is iWork for Mac on life support? - 05 Dec 2012

My sources tell me that Apple repurposed most of its iWork developers to work on PagesNumbers and Keynote for iOS ($9.99 each from the App Store) — which continues to receive regular updates at the expense of the OS X version.

Several business users have told me that they're growing weary of iWork for OS X's second-class citizenship and its lack of updates. Some have told me that they're abandoning iWork entirely if it doesn't get any update love this year. And it isn't just the dearth of new features, iWork's performance is starting to lag. Pro tip: delete Helvetica Neue and avoid header columns to speed up Numbers/OS X (thanks doubleD!)

Apple's starting to lose the office battle on the desktop but iOS isn't safe either. With Microsoft inching ever closer to releasing its first Office apps for iOS Apple stands to lose marketshare in iOS office apps too. 

Apple is missing a prime opportunity here and basically ceding the market to Microsoft. Its users have a natural aversion to Microsoft products -- at least on the OS level -- and it's baffling that Apple isn't capitalizing on it with regular updates to iWork. Apple could simply add a couple of features, tighten up the UI and release iWork '10, iWork '11 every year (like almost every other software developer does). I know that I'd probably upgrade. 

Instead Apple proceeds with its release and abandon strategy. Release iWork into the market with great fanfare and starve it until it eventually dies. What makes matters worse is that Apple will not comment on its iWork roadmap. Not even a "we're working on it." Nothing. Without the potential for new features and performance increases business users are taking a long hard look at the alternatives and increasingly giving their cash to Microsoft instead. 

It's a good thing that Microsoft didn't release a slick Office 2013 for Mac, or it would be game over for iWork. 

One potential bright spot: Apple's hiring iWork engineers. But will it be enough to stem the tide? How long will it take for production code to be released? Will we see iWork '14? Or maybe iWork '15?

The only reason that I can see to stick with iWork at this point is because, at $60 for the suite ($20 per app from the Mac App Store), iWork is relatively cheap. (The Business edition of Office 2011 for Mac is still spendy at $220, although the Home and Student Edition of Office 2011 sells for $90-$140).

So, will Apple answer the call and revive iWork/OS X? Or is it on a life support system in Cupertino?

Further reading:

Topics: Apple, iOS, Microsoft, Software

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  • Spendy?

    Why the need to invent new cludgey works when several exist e.g. pricey?
  • Something is off here

    Your article makes the assumption that iWork (or anything for that matter) is remotely challenging Microsoft Office in the workplace. Which it doesn't. You talk about an 'office battle'...since when? What battle is this and when did it ever start? No one is battling Office. No one can. Apple isn't stupid. Microsoft got a lot of things wrong but one thing they got right was MS Office, and Apple knows that.
    • Office right? Might is right - then yes.

      A lot of issues with office from my point of view.

      Yes everyone uses it - but I find it quite painful.

      I no longer have Office on my Mac. When I updated a few years ago I installed iWork and never got round to installing Office even though I had a valid licence to do so.

      I am happy with iWork - and much prefer it.

      Having said that iWork still could do with some things - and yes Apple needs to look at updating it as still room to improve.

      Numbers is wonderful - but is probably in need of the most work - and in fact iOS is where it needs improvement on data entry.

      Ability to share documents between users on iCloud would be wonderful too - sort of like photostream now has I guess?

      And yes as Maha8888 says below the updates to Office have annoyed all the Office users I know. Once they added the larger toolbar the Windows die-hards started complaining about new things.
    • My Point of View

      I have Pages and Numbers iOS and OS X. I have on OS X. I use the latter 99% of the time, but Pages was quite useful for writing an ePub user manual. Even though I recognize the utility and widespread adoption of Office for Mac, I have, so far, gotten along fine without it. The preceding was not meant as endorsement or guidance, but as calibration for the following.

      I don't think Apple gives a hoot about competing with Office. I also think that, with the exceptions of utilities and interface memes, Apple's productivity software is not about being the winner of check list wars, but about providing a base competence, leaving the door open for third party developers to specialize and innovate. Some Apple apps look to be not much more than proof of API concepts.

      And one has to ask the very real question, how much would it cost to build a Pages that was unarguably superior to Word, and isn't the mobile market the place where customer numbers and inertia favors Apple?

      It's fine for folks like Mr. O'Grady to ask that Apple spend in order to have a vanity boast, but I note that very recently I read the same author sharing his excitement over using unlicensed OS X and a new motherboard for building a ML capable hackintosh. I hope this reader may be forgiven in thinking that Apple could Manattan Project the insanely great office suite, but if it cost too much, Mr. O'Grady wouldn't be bothered to use, buy, and recommended it
      • It's not just a vanity project

        Microsoft Office is too expensive because it is a monopoly product. If good engineering went into the Mac products, there is certainly a market for them. Is it too much to ask for Apple to spend some of the billions of dollars they are sitting on to update and improve this important product line?
    • You didn't get the memo?

      This is the epic battle Apple fanbois wage in their minds. They fool themselves into believing MAC are relevant in the business world so iWork must be too. There's a version of Office for everyone and the new Office 365 Home Premium is tough to beat. $99 for 1 year and installable on up to 5 PCs or Macs.
  • Yearly Updates?

    I don't understand the crying for regular updates from the author. So long as the software does what you need it to do and does it well, why do you need regular updates?

    I have MS Word 2002, and MS Office 2007. The "improvements" Microsoft made to Word were annoying. They made the interface more intimidating by adding more buttons and rows. They certainly didn't do anything to help me to be more productive, in fact, the opposite.

    Do you want Apple to put out updates for iWork just for updates sake? If they can't genuinely improve things I'd rather they not do anything at all. I would have been perfectly happy if Microsoft had kept Word 2002 with the exact same user interface as in 2007.
    • Try 2010

      Office 2010 is to 2007 what Windows 7 was to Vista. Similar ideas, just more refined. 2010 is actually really good. The ribbon feels a lot better in 2010.

      I don't see the point to release a product like iWork without regularly updating it..
      • Purpose is to update? Meaning of your life?

        No the purpose of software is not updates.

        I use my software to do things - not to get new toys.

        Yes improvements are a good idea - but some of the best software gets the least updates.
  • iWork

    It's funny to read this article with the claims that iWork is abandoned, when Apple routinely updates iWork for OS X the same time it updates iWork for iOS. Today, iWork supports iCloud integration, even if it's still technically iWork'09 which didn't even have a clue. It was also updated for Lion/Mountain Lion etc.

    Nobody is fighting Microsoft for Office, because it does not make sense. Office is surely bloated and expensive, but there is no need to 'fight' it. Just release better product. As Apple has done with iWork, as Sun/Oracle has done with OpenOffice etc. Let the market decide. What is curious is that Microsoft and the rest don't really compete in the same market. Microsoft's primary market for Office is the corporate environment, where they sell in bulk. Any other market prefers different office suite to Microsoft's.
    • iWork is horrible

      I have been in an office environment for over 10 years. No one uses iWork. So I decided to try it the other day. What a piece of junk. Apple proprietary garbage that crashed on me twice in one day. Microsoft Office for Mac is way better.
      Sean Foley
    • They do "update" it

      But the majority of recent iWork updates on the desktop have been focused on making sure it works well with iWork on the iPad.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • Not even good bait

    Most Web articles on zdnet each day seem designed to bait people into writing flaming responses. In this case it won't work. There is no battle in the workplace regarding iWork. It's a fairly nice, but really light, office suite. LibreOffice is much better if you're looking for something to throw up against MS Office.

    Pages still doesn't have section automatic section numbers that can be put into a header or a footer. Numbers still doesn't have real styles. I could list a dozen more lack of features.

    I've legally owned every version of MS Office for Mac since before Office--starting with Word vs 1.x. I've owned every version of iWork since the first version. I'm pretty good with all of them. My choice, however, is LibreOffice. I keep MS Office around for times when I have to read or translate extremely complex Word documents or Excel spreadsheets. I keep iWork around because of some easy page layout capabilities of Pages. LibreOffice does all of my grunt work.
    • Just as a matter of interest

      How much have you spent on owning every version of Office since Word 1.x.
      I'm not baiting, I'm actually interested in the cost of keeping current with Office.
  • I think its genetic

    If iSheep arent being fleeced, then they think they are being ignored.
    • I think its genetic

      you can blame your parents...
  • It's a good thing that Microsoft didn't release a slick Office 2013 for Mac

    Really Jason? A "good thing"? Maybe if there is a slick Office 2013 for Mac, Mac users would have better choices (and from your point of view, Apple might be shocked into updating iWork). So no, it is a bad thing that Microsoft did not release a slick Office 2013 for Mac. Maybe they will!
  • As others have said, there is no battle

    MS Office dominates the category for business use. Sure, other programs can work with Office file formats, but they aren't always 100 percent accurate imports/exports.

    Even if it's just a font substitution or a formatting glitch, it makes your customers less confident with the data is in that file. That lack of confidence is very bad for business.
    • You exchange Office files with clients?

      Not baiting you…just curious. While I realize there are cases where passing back and forth editable office-type documents are necessary, I rarely find that to be a requirement. Normally, it is just a matter of habit and/or laziness. Virtually all of the business use cases that I'm familiar with, the documents are better distributed via PDF files.
  • Pages

    I once got a document saved in Pages sent to me ... I replied politely for them to do it in Office ... it's impossible to use the things in an environment where you need to be careful with layout for publication or presentation. Office struggles to keep compatability with earlier versions of itself, let alone a pale Apple copy on a still unusual piece of hardware in the general business environment.
    I appreciate many creative types seem to like Macs, especially when they don't have to buy them for themselves, but your average business doesn't use them. Compatability is a really major issue, and I mean tiny, detailed specifics of compatability now, not "oh it'll read the file" sort of compatability, which just lulls you into the false impression that it's acceptable to mail these files off to your PC brethren... it's not.