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.
My sources tell me that Apple repurposed most of its iWork developers to work on Pages, Numbers 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?