Today at its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, Apple announced the next version of the OS X operating system for Mac computers and notebooks: Mavericks. Among the many enhancements and expansions in this operating system, one that may prove especially useful to business users is cloud integration for Apple's iWork suite of applications.
Once a document is in iCloud, users can log in to iCloud from any device -- even a PC laptop running Windows -- and use any of several popular web browsers to view and edit a word processing (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers) or presentation (Keynote) document.
Effectively, this can make iWork function more like Google Docs. You won't need to have any software other than a compatible web browser installed on your device to access and work with your documents. Also, you can easily share documents online with others for viewing or collaboration.
If iWork's slick interface lives up to Apple's demonstration, this could be one of the most attractive and fully functioned web applications available -- with high-end graphical editing capabilities and sophisticated sharing.
Apple's iWork in the cloud can be useful for teams that must collaborate on documents or simply for working with your own documents from whatever internet-connected device is handy -- your own or someone else's. You can drag-and-drop iWork documents from your Mac to iCloud or create new documents entirely via a web browser.
The downside, compared to Google Docs, is that you must have an Apple ID to access this service, which means you must own at least one Apple device. Also, you can only share editable documents with other Apple ID accounts. Therefore, iWork in the cloud is not really "free." In contrast, you don't have to purchase anything to use Google Docs.
Also, it doesn't appear that you can publish iWork documents to the web, where you can link to them and anyone can view them -- a popular feature of Google Docs. Apple may add this and other features later.
When released this fall, the service is expected to function through these web browsers on Macs or PCs: Safari 6.0.3 or later, Chrome 27.0.1 or later and Internet Explorer 9.0.8 or later. It won't be immediately available on Firefox or Opera. Also, Apple did not clarify whether this service will work on mobile browsers for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.