iWork for iCloud highlights productivity suite update

iWork is getting down to business in the cloud.

During an announcement-packed Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, Tim Cook took a few moments to talk iWork, Apple’s collection of productivity apps that hasn’t seen an update on the Mac side since 2009. You’ll have to wait for a little longer for new versions of iWork for Mac and iOS, but when they arrive later this year, they’ll come with a third version—iWork for iCloud. The completely Web-based version of iWork will allow users to view and edit documents right from a browser window.

The new service, demoed Monday by Apple vice president Roger Rosner, works on both OS X and Windows, and is compatible with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Google’s Chrome, and, of course, Apple’s own Safari (which is getting an update of its own later this year). The user interface of iWork in the Cloud closely mimics that of its iOS and Mac counterparts, providing the same trio of apps—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

As with the current version of iWork and the now-shuttered iWork.com, this new service will let you view documents that the native version of the productivity suite have synced to iCloud. For the first time, however, you will also be able to create new documents, edit existing ones—even those created by competing apps, such as Microsoft Word—and continue to synchronize them to the cloud, thus making them available for access on your devices.

Despite being browser-based, Rosner touted the iWork apps as fully functional—they’ll take advantage of the latest advances in Web technology. Keynote, in particular, can play back presentations right from a browser and make use of a browser’s ability to support hardware-accelerated graphics to offer the same kind of fluid animations that users have come to expect from the desktop and mobile versions.

According to Rosner, Apple will make a beta version of iWork for iCloud available immediately to registered developers, and will expand it to all users in the near future.

The iWork announcement came as Apple looked to tout its sometimes maligned iCloud offering. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, iCloud now counts over 300 million users, making it the fastest growing cloud service in history.

The same impressive numbers apply to the other technologies that rely on Apple’s cloud infrastructure: Game Center now has 240 million accounts, with 60 out of the top 100 iOS games in the App Store relying on it for everything from multiuser interaction to scorekeeping. Meanwhile, iCloud has also helped deliver some 800 billion iMessages and a mind-boggling 7.4 trillion push notifications.

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