At WWDC last week, Apple announced a cloud-based version of iWork. As Apple demoed this, the whole Flash versus HTML5 brouhaha came back to my mind.
Let's back up a bit. When Steve Jobs and Apple decided to withdraw support for Adobe Flash in iOS, they got a lot of flak from many corners of the industry. Jobs, of course, had his own ideas as he was pushing for a stable technology to deliver Flash-like content.
He chose to back HTML5 as the way to deliver interactive web-based apps in the future. At first Adobe worked hard to thwart this move. But remember, Adobe does not actually make money from Flash itself; it makes money on the tools used to create Flash-based programs. Once Adobe realised that more and more users would move away from Flash, it worked feverishly to create valuable tools for HTML5. While Flash still exists, it is no longer critical for the success of any application that delivers a media-rich experience.
Now back to Apple's WWDC keynote. The more I watched how Pages, Numbers, and Keynote work in the cloud, the more I realised that Jobs was right about the impact of HTML5 and its role in providing very rich web-based applications. I have been using Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs, and Evernote in the cloud for some time and have already realised the incredible value of web-based applications.
For decades I used pen and paper to take notes in meetings. Once laptops became more portable, I switched to them. My laptop has since been replaced by my iPad paired with a Bluetooth keyboard and Evernote. I could easily use Pages or numerous other productivity apps, but there is one key feature that makes Evernote indispensable to me: It can be accessed via a web browser or downloaded as an app to PCs and Macs, alongside iOS, Android, and Windows 8 phones or tablets. More importantly, whatever I write on one is synched with Evernote on all my other devices. That means I can start working on a document on the iPad and go to a Mac or PC and pick right up where I left off. Apple's Pages does store my files in the cloud but it only works on Macs, whereas Evernote is truly cross-platform.
But the new cloud version of iWork takes this to a new level because these refreshed apps work exactly as if they were local on a Mac or iPad in the web browser. In fact, Apple demoed these apps not only in Safari but also in Internet Explorer and Chrome, proving they work well anywhere. While both Google Docs and Office 365 have similar cloud-based apps, they are not quite as rich as Apple's new iCloud iWork version. I have a long history in desktop publishing and the DTP features such as text to fit and the ability to drop images and video into a document in the cloud version of Pages really resonate with me. More importantly, all changes to the document on one machine sync and appear in all other locations.
While there are many other HTML5 web apps already on the market, iWork sets a new standard for web-based productivity tools.
On another important note, shortly after the WWDC keynote started, Tim Cook played a video (below) in which Apple's senior vice president of design, Jony Ive, articulates his perspective on design. It gives viewers a glimpse into how Ive and Apple think about a product when they design it.
One particular quote really stands out. Ive says: "True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter or ornamentation. It's about bringing order to complexity." From Ive's comments you can tell he has Jobs' design theory burned into his brain and when he influences a product, it is as if Jobs himself designed it. This bodes well for Apple's future.
While the updates to OS X Mavericks and iOS are relatively evolutionary, when you load it on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, it will feel like a brand new device. Given Ive's perspective on design, I can't wait to see what he and Apple bring to market in the way of TVs and smartwatches that are rumoured to be in the works. Though Jobs has left us, it does appear that Ive and Apple are more than capable of carrying on his legacy of creating sleek and stunning devices in the future.