iWork is not an Office competitor

Apple recently launched iWork ‘08, the newest version of their office program compilation:

  • Pages: Word processing and desktop publishing, like Word
  • Keynote: Presentations, like PowerPoint
  • Numbers: Spreadsheets, like Excel (new in iWork ‘08)

This Apple Numbers review implies an interesting point about Numbers (and Pages, and Keynote):

They don’t compete with Microsoft Office.

Microsoft Office is a gigantic platform (not just applications) with every feature under the sun, and power users have probably grown accustomed to at least a handful of advanced features that aren’t present in their iWork counterparts.

Numbers isn’t an Excel clone and Pages isn’t a Word clone. (I’ve never used Keynote or PowerPoint. Seriously. I’ve never used PowerPoint. So I have no comparison there.)

iWork is an attempt to solve similar needs for Mac users who don’t want to shell out $400 (yes!) for Microsoft Office for Mac. Instead, iWork satisfies people with lighter needs and lighter budgets, at only $79.

I’ll have a full review after a few months of using the new programs. But from quick initial usage, iWork ‘08 has no surprises compared to previous versions: it’s prettier and simpler, but with far fewer features and a far lower cost, than Microsoft Office.

There’s a significant number of users out there that don’t need office software very often, including me. As a programmer, I use the most souped-up version of Notepad in the world (the excellent TextMate), and I would have happily paid more than its €39 cost.

The only times I use Microsoft Word are when other people email documents to me, and even that’s rare. I use Excel a few times per year to make simple lists and budgets. And the last time I had to give a presentation, we were required to use note cards and a poster. (Being an expert slacker, I, of course, had neither.)

I simply don’t get $400 worth of value out of office software. I can barely even justify iWork’s $79 price.

There’s a lot of people out there that have similar needs, and instead of waiting for Office 2008 for Mac, we just find alternatives.

Microsoft isn’t losing sales to this market. If we didn’t get iWork, we would either pirate Office, try to convince ourselves that we qualify for the educational discount, or use NeoOffice. The possibility of spending $400 for a bloated, sluggish, overly complex suite that negates everything great about OS X was never on the table.