Apple launches iWork productivity apps for iPhone

But enterprises want mobile versions of Office from Microsoft, says analyst

Apple today released new versions of its iWork apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, adding support for the productivity programs to its smaller devices.

The three iWork apps -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- have been available on the iPad since the tablet's debut in April 2010.

One analyst saw iWork on the iPhone as a long shot in the enterprise market. "These tools have some chance of succeeding, and may capture some market share, but how much is up in the air," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC.

"The question will be how well the apps interoperate with Office," Hilwa continued. "I think enterprises will insist on true interoperability [with Office on the desktop] for quite some time to come."

Selling for $9.99 each, the three programs now run on devices powered by iOS 4, including the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch.

Pages is Apple's word processor, while Numbers and Keynote are the iWork spreadsheet and presentation maker, respectively.

The apps import and export documents from iWork for Mac as well as from Microsoft Office, and can print wirelessly via AirPrint, the Apple technology that debuted with iOS 4.2 last November. The list of AirPrint-capable printers, however, is limited to 18 models from Hewlett-Packard.

Pages, Numbers and Keynote also now include improved document management tools that let users organize files into folders, and a navigation feature dubbed "Smart Zoom," said Apple.

Hilwa wasn't surprised that Apple added the iPhone and iPod Touch to iWork's hardware list. "Of course they're going to do this," said Hilwa. "They want to offer [iPhone users] an alternative to Office."

With the exception of OneNote, a note-taking program, Microsoft has not created iOS native app editions of its Office applications. Instead, it has steered iPhone and iPad enterprise users to the bare-bones online versions, dubbed Office Web Apps, of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

That's a strategy that Microsoft will likely continue, said Hilwa.

"There's a constant debate within Microsoft about how to move the needle on Office for mobile," said Hilwa, "between promoting their apps on other platforms and keeping Office on its own [platforms]."

For the near term, Hilwa sees Microsoft restricting native app editions of Office to its own operating systems, Windows Phone 7 and most importantly, Windows 8, the 2012 version expected to run on tablets.

"Microsoft's most important criteria is that Windows gets a great rebirth on tablets, and they'll do everything they can, including the Office lever, which is a strong feature of the Microsoft platform, to make sure Windows 8 is a success," Hilwa said.

Apple's iWork apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad can be purchased through the iTunes-based App Store. iPad users who already have one or more of the three apps can upgrade to the iPhone-able versions free of charge.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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