iWork in iCloud: How it may affect my syncing strategy

OK, I didn’t see that one coming: Apple(s AAPL) today announced that it is sorta re-re-launching iWork in iCloud, while the iwork.com body is barely cold.

Apple says iWork in iCloud is a browser-based, but fully functional version of the iWork suite. In short, it’s a feature rich, and, apparently uncrippled version of each of the apps. Apple’s Roger Rosner demonstrated features like adding pictures and animations to a Keynote file. It’s not a replacement of the iWork apps for iOS and Mac OS — Apple did say that the iWork suite will get updated “later this year,” but offered no details on what features it might have. (Frankly, I’d rather have had a sneak peak at that as well, rather than an oddly included demo of some race cars.)

A few weeks ago, I opined at length about the challenges I faced running a dual-Mac household. After carefully watching Rosner’s demo on stage today, I kept that article in mind to see how it might affect how I sync and use data.

Using iWork in iCloud as a replacement for Office 365

I mentioned that I still use Microsoft Office for some tasks — especially tasks where I’m on my Windows machine and need to edit or continue working on a document that started life on my Mac. For most of my personal needs, the iWork iOS and OS X apps  are usually sufficient. Even if I could migrate my day job to a Mac, I’ll still need to use Microsoft Office.

So, for that small amount of time in Windows where I need to continue working on a personal file, I’ll likely just keep using iWork, and edit it in iWork in iCloud if I need to.  But the real win for the new browser-based software is even if you’re not at your computer and need to edit a file, you can edit it via iWork in iCloud.

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Potential pitfalls

That’s not to say iWork for iCloud is going to a solution for anyone, nor without its challenges.

No local storage

If I go all-in on using iCloud-only, I’m throwing all my files into the good graces of Apple’s iCloud servers. Now, it’s been years since iCloud screwed up a sync so badly all my files got deleted, but that pain still lingers. I’m also not sure how emailing files from iWork in iCloud would work. That said, I’ve gotten pretty good at deleting my own files by accident, so this may be a win for me.

Apple’s own spotty history of internet services

The MobileMe launch was a mess. iCloud’s launch was rocky. Apple tends to handle internet services poorly. Now, iCloud has gotten better lately, but having been burned in the past, I’m still gun shy.

Lack of collaboration

Unspoken of were any sort of collaboration tools. This does not bother me; for documents I need to collaborate on, like the lists of songs my band is working on, Google Docs(s GOOG) is a proven tool that I’m probably not moving away from any time soon. This is for a few reasons. Google Docs just works, for the most part. My band has a 200-line spreadsheet of songs we are considering covering. Everyone can go in and comment on songs, add links, etc. I don’t see collaboration as a feature Apple is going to start worrying about right now. That said, unfortunately since the developer servers are still down, I can’t get into the beta version to try out iWork in iCloud.

Why announce it today?

Apple is aware that the state of iWork while it’s nearing four years old is as embarrassing as the now-eliminated stitching, wood, and felt from the iOS. While everything they showed off was new and exciting, iWork was still an elephant in the room for Apple. I think iWork users really needed to hear from Apple that this suite is moving forward, and will be updated — even if it’s “later this year.” My gut feeling is, all the new iWork apps will be announced when they hold the event for the iOS device launch this fall.

Final thoughts

While iWork in iCloud may not end up being a heavily used service, it’s one Apple needed to launch. Between Office 365 and Google Docs, Apple really needed a way for Mac users to edit documents online using Apple’s own programs.

So, I welcome the idea of iWork in iCloud. I may not use the feature a lot, but I’m going to be glad it’s there.