Why Apple included iWork on the iPad

Last month at Macworld 2010, I reminded attendees in my Presentation Magic workshop that I had written about Keynote, Apple’s presentation software part of its iWork productivity suite, and how it might function on a tablet device. Here’s the link I illustrated in my talk:

In his January 27 special event, Steve Jobs spoke of approaching the iWork team and asking if it was possible to bring iWork to the iPad.

Here are his exact words, after the demo on the iPad as an eBook reader:

January 27, 2010: Steve Jobs announces iWork on the iPad

Now, something very exciting: iWork. A little over a year ago, I asked the head of our iWork team to take a look at creating a version of iWork for the iPad. And the initial reaction was… “the iWork apps – Keynote, Pages and Numbers are really heavy duty apps… they require a lot of horsepower. Could the tablet power them?”

And the answer turned out to be a resounding “You betcha!”

And then, could we come up with an entirely new user interface for these apps? Very different from writing on a personal computer. And what they came up with is really magnificent.

Now you have to wonder if asking the iWork team leader “to take a look at” whether iWork can be situated on the iPad is Jobs’ code for: “the Apple executive team thought iWork as an extra item would be icing on a very sweet cake” or “take your team off desktop iWork for a few months and make iWork on the iPad happen. Here’s the date by which I want it finished” or Steve and iWork Team Leader meet at the Apple commissary and kick around a few ideas with SVP iPhone software, Scott Forstall, sharing the table, and all together say, “Hey, iWork on the iPad: killer apps from Apple”.

Who knows, yet I am going to assume that the iPad has been in the Apple skunkworks for several years. How far back it goes might one day be revealed in a future book, such as there have been books written about the gestation of the iPod. (Indeed, if you go to Amazon.com and search for <iPad> you’ll be surprised how many books are coming out about it in the next six weeks, as in the example, above.)

Most of these will be how-to books, in the iPads for Dummies style if you like, rather than telling what is for me the more interesting developmental story behind its concept and execution.

What for me is also interesting to speculate upon is the decision-making behind including a productivity suite – iWork – for the iPad.

Certainly and simplistically, it serves to derail those who naysay that the iPad  is a just a big iPod Touch. To which a sensible rebuttal might be, “And… the problem with that, is…?”

If anything, it’s an advantage in many respects given users will be drawn to the iPad based on their positive experience with other Apple multitouch appliances, such as the iPod Touch and iPhone, meaning simple learning curve.

So, as much as the eBook aspect of the iPad has garnered much attention given its similarity to what Apple did with iPod/iTunes Music Store/Music industry tectonic shift, the iWork-on-the-iPad  plan should not be overlooked in some casual fashion. Whether it was a last minute inclusion, a “hey, can we really do this” marketing effort, or a well-thought through design decision, what remains at the end of the day (or the beginning of the changes iPad will ring in), is that a tablet device is bringing enterprise-level apps to a platform where they have previously been unsuccessfully applied.

I have long said Keynote is a trojan horse to get Apple products increasingly into the enterprise setting, allowing Apple users to shape policy to, in the main, Microsoft-preferring IT departments. This occurs in fact at the C level, when execs see Keynote in action and then know they want to present differently. Of course, in reality, it’s been iPhone users who’ve forced IT departments to acknowledge Apple exists and has a place other than in schools, homes and the graphic arts industries.

But iWork on the iPad is another story; indeed, an extension of the iPhone story. It raises the iPad above the “just a big iPod Touch” argument, and places it before enterprise workers as another challenge to the domination of Microsoft’s Office suite. At this point, I have no idea of how well say my 1.2GB Keynote files will play on the iPad, which effects will be retained and which will cause Keynote on the iPad to crash – indeed, I don’t even know how those files will be transferred: via a new version of iTunes to be released next week, a beefed-up iWork.com, or some other magical software exchange system?

Placing iWork on the iPad is a serious bit of gauntlet tossing to other tablet wannabees or netbooks, whose likely full implementation of Office on Windows 7 will lead to rather anaemic presentations given the horsepower needed to get the most out of Powerpoint. Moreover, you’re hardly going to use your tiny Acer netbook to show a group your Powerpoint, while I do imagine the iPad will work well as a standalone device in small office gatherings.

Time will tell whether bringing iWork to the iPad was merely a case of “Hey, look what we can do” (not in Apple’s DNA) or represents a determined effort to tantalise those who still think Apple makes toys  for computers, and provide the rest of us with great tools to better do our work in engaging and effective ways.

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3 responses to “Why Apple included iWork on the iPad

  1. iWork.com!!

  2. Good article! The other strategic element is that iPhone OS offers all these touch UI elements. Imaging hitting tiny UI element in Powerpoint or Excel on a Windows tablet.
    Apple does now have a UI challenging office suite with groundbreaking touch input that offers them another year or two advantage for tweaking touch based user experience. Further patents to follow.

  3. Pingback: I will be using iWork on my iPad « A Man With A Ph.D.

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