Collaborate: An Examination of Tools for Groups Working in the Cloud - iWork
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Not a company to be left out of any technological development for long, Apple has taken steps into the world of cloud computing with the latest version of its OS X-based Office suite iWork '09. The bundle includes access to an online collaborative component that Apple has branded iwork.com. This allows any document created in any of the iWork applications to be shared simply online through a web browser using an upload link included in the various application toolbars.
Once the upload is complete, a URL is returned which can be distributed to the people with whom the document is to be shared. Anyone who has the link, which is entirely public, can view the document in their browser, download it in a variety of formats including Apple's own iWork, PDF and MS Word, edit it and re-upload it. The iwork.com application also offers commenting capabilities.
Unfortunately, iwork.com suffers from two major drawbacks that currently limit its suitability for serious online collaboration. The first of these is the complete absence of interactive editing. As it stands, iwork.com is little more than a flashy file viewer with rudimentary sharing capabilities bolted on.
The second drawback, potentially even more serious, is the total absence of any security for uploaded files. Not even a simple password. The only protection available is obfuscation by not making the link publicly available.
Having said that, assuming that having your data unprotected online isn't a problem, iwork.com does allow iWork '09 users to share files in a novel and innovative way. Although iwork.com is not feature-rich, it serves as a clear statement of intent from Apple.
It would be surprising if the system didn't undergo significant improvements in the near future, as Apple acts on its determination to be a major player in the cloud computing arena. The company currently has some way to go before it catches up with the likes of Zoho, but if anyone has the vision and the resources to do so, it's Apple.
Summary: Currently limited, but sure to improve.
Pricing: Included with Apples iWork '09, which costs around $99
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