updated 04:50 pm EST, Fri March 9, 2012
Users can retrieve docs until end of July
Now that iCloud offers modern Mac and iOS users a way to store and edit iWork documents across iOS and Mac devices, Apple has sent e-mails to users of iWork.com informing them that the service will be closing down as of July 31st. The letter contains links to detailed instructions on how to retrieve copies of users' documents that are stored on iWork.com before the shutdown. The service began as a free beta in January 2009.
It became evident within the first year of its existence that iWork.com was not going to evolve into a competitor to Google Docs, and was unlikely to emerge out of beta without a revamp. While the service was very functional, allowing iWork users an easy way to pass on documents to others (including PC users who didn't have iWork), it didn't allow for any online editing beyond adding notes or comments. Apple essentially set the service adrift with no significant changes or updates, but left it free for users.
The iWork.com site did offer a way to easily view iWork documents for users on all platforms, and PC users could opt to download the files available to them in Microsoft Word or PDF format instead of the Mac-only iWork format. Uploaders could set access levels for documents stored on the service to prevent clients from seeing other files not intended for them, and in later versions users were able to obtain an code snippet that would let them embed Keynote documents into webpages for universal viewing through a browser.
Apple's free iCloud service, which is available to Mac users running OS X Lion (10.7) or iOS users running iOS 5, offer automatic syncing of stored iWork documents across a users' iOS devices, provided they have installed the sold-separately versions of the iWork apps on their devices. Changes made in an Pages document on the iPad, for example, will appear on the an iPhone the next time the user opens the file. Like iWork.com, iCloud users on the PC have the option of downloading a converted copy of the file in Microsoft Office for PDF format.
In its e-mail, Apple mentions that over 40 million documents are already stored on iCloud by "millions of iWork customers." At last report, iCloud had already had over 85 million signups for the free service. The iWork.com beta is being shut down only a month after the closure of Mobile Me, the paid precursor to iCloud. The moves are part of an unusually aggressive effort by the company to pressure Mac and iOS users into upgrading to the latest version of their respective OSes.
Mobile Me also offered iWork users the opportunity to store and e-mail links to stored documents (of any kind) via iDisk, however that feature along with some others is being discontinued in the transition from Mobile Me to iCloud. The company did, however, partially restore a "gallery" type feature for iPhoto users with the introduction of "Photo Journals" in iPhoto for iOS, which lets users gather a set of pictures together, arrange them with a small amount of accompanying data (such as text, maps, weather conditions at the time and so on) and store them on iCloud with a sharable URL.