In an effort to keep things similar across its platforms, Apple has updated iWork with a flat iOS 7 design, while also adding new features to its services for iCloud. The public responded positively to the unveiling of iWork for iCloud last year but with some of the most widely used features of the services removed, the programs are still not as advanced as the desktop versions of iWork.
Outside of the design changes, Apple has added the ability to password protect shared documents, which should allow more people to collaborate on projects with iWork for iCloud rather than a competing service like Google Docs. Apple is still relatively new to the cloud storage and service industry, but these changes will allow the tech giant to compete with other companies that have been involved with cloud apps for years.
New Look, New Features
Even though many people do not like the design changes in iOS 7, Apple is now rolling them out to other services, including iCloud. In this update, Apple has only changed the design of the template chooser and documents library, while leaving the document editor untouched. However, it is expected that the iOS 7 look will be spreading to all of iWork for iCloud.
Since it was unveiled last year, iWork for iCloud has included collaboration features for group projects. Until now however, these features have been lacking in comparison to Google Docs, but as of today, users can password protect files in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. These protected files can also be accessed in collaboration with others.
As usual, Apple did include a slew of smaller tweaks and upgrades in the update. Among these were new keyboard shortcuts and improved voice-over support in all three applications .
A Viable Competitor
Apple's iWork for iCloud lacks many of the features that make Google Docs a popular alternative to traditional productivity apps, but now that Apple is introducing new features, iWork may soon become a viable option for business professionals and regular consumers.
The improved collaboration options is a great step forward, as password protection is crucial to any document sharing, but the actual sharing features are still minimal relative to Google Docs.
We asked Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, for his opinion on the cloud sector and where it is headed.
"The cloud is a rapidly growing space. Some users love it and some don't. Same with companies." he said. "This is a technology that will roll out and continue to grow over the next several years." As the cloud itself grows, Apple and its competitors will have an even larger incentive to increase the viability of using cloud apps in place of traditional productivity applications.
While Apple is trying to improve iWork by making it available for free via iCloud, Microsoft is stepping into the cloud services industry as well. Microsoft's SkyDrive and Office 365 services have already become popular and although their collaboration features are not as advanced as those in Google Docs, they do seem to be superior to what iCloud currently has to offer. Of course, because of Office's $100 per year price tag, budget-minded consumers are less like to adopt it.