|MacNN readers and staffers have reported receiving invitations from Apple to try out the iWork for iCloud beta, and may expand the program to all those with an iCloud account. The online version of the three iWork apps -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- is not believed to be intended to replace the local Mac and iOS versions, but instead complement them with a way to use the programs from any online device -- including, for the first time, Windows computers. Our reviews of the apps found them to be superb implementations of the latest web technologies.
The web apps, first announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, offer nearly mirror-copies of the existing iOS and Mac versions of the word-processor and layout tool Pages, the spreadsheet app Numbers and the presentation tool Keynote, accessible through any desktop or notebook version of Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. As we found in our reviews, the service is nearly functionally complete, and fully supports syncing and importing documents (including Microsoft Office documents).
Developers, who have had access to the apps since earlier this month, have praised the programs and suggested that Apple may be intending to offer them for free, at least to those who already own a copy of either the OS X or iOS versions. The web apps require a free iCloud account, available for both Mac and PC owners, and use cloud syncing of documents. The free beta, depending on how widespread the offer becomes, could pose a serious threat to Microsoft and its efforts to get Mac and PC owners to switch to its own version of an "office in the cloud" suite, Office 365 (which costs $100 a year, but also comes with 20GB of free cloud storage compared to iCloud's 5GB).
Apple has not set a release date for iWork for iCloud, but the email sent to invitees suggests it is still coming this fall, along with a slew of new Apple products, refreshes and software. Invitees can click a link in the email (a "get started" button) and log into their existing iCloud accounts, where they will find the new apps available. Users that have not yet been invited will still be able to add and sync existing iWork documents from Mac or iOS versions as before.