Almost drowned in the hubbub of the iPhone 7 event was the announcement of collaboration features for Apple’s iWork software suite. The collection of productivity apps, which includes Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, will soon gain the ability to have multiple users edit a document simultaneously.
This collaboration feature is the culmination of iWork’s 3-year-long overhaul. Previously, simultaneous editing by several people was limited to Apple’s online version of iWork. Now, not only do the three iWork apps each work natively on both macOS and iOS devices, but they can also work seamlessly across multiple devices of the two platforms at the same time. iWork is Apple’s oft-overlooked attempt to bridge the gap between the software capabilities of “real” computer apps and iPad and iPhone apps.
During Apple’s keynote on Sept. 7th, the company touted the speed and simplicity of multiple-user editing in Keynote. It noted that the new features would be useful in student-to-student and teacher-to-student collaborations. With the iWork suite being free for all Macs, iPhones, and iPads sold after 2013, many schools with Apple devices could benefit from this update.
Real-time collaboration is nothing new — Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365 have long offered this capability — but it may be what Apple needed to sell its iWork software as a viable software solution to schools. The native integration, full feature set, and free price tag of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, means that Apple has a chance of challenging Microsoft’s and Google’s dominance in the classroom.