It’s almost predictable. Apple releases a new version of OS X, and the complaints are there in abundance, at least most of the time. Well, it’s not that 10.9 is necessarily perfect, but it does seem as if the carping is at a much lower volume. For example, some are concerned that Mail isn’t handling Gmail accounts as well as it should. They are no doubt correct, although I don’t use the archiving or other advanced features of Google’s free email account, so I haven’t noticed. I still do not like the fact that, if you delete a message by mistake from Gmail, you can’t just undo. You have to go to the Trash folder to recover it. But that’s probably just me.
Now on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured author Ben Klaiber, who reveals the powerful business lessons behind Apple’s resurgence in the new book, “Anatomy of an Apple — The Lessons Steve Taught Us,” and offers his insights on Apple’s latest strategic moves. He has posted some informative and entertaining book excerpts at anatomyofanapple.com.
You’ll also hear from cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, from Roughly Drafted Magazine and AppleInsider, who attended Apple’s media rollout of the new iPads and refreshed MacBook Pros with Retina display. He’ll offer his reaction to Apple’s decision to distribute key software free of charge, the impact on Microsoft, and the ongoing problems with Google’s Android platform.
Now while I actually was one of the few who expected Apple to announce that Mavericks would be a free download, I didn’t expect the iLife and iWork apps to be included. I can see the advantages, particularly for new Mac users who can buy a fully functional computer without having to buy any software to get the basics done. But I worry about the publishers of non-Microsoft word processors who are going to have an awful time competing with free. Yes, advanced features will help, but most people simply won’t care unless they work at an office where Word is required. But I’ll have more to say about the changes in Pages, some of which are not getting the love, in the following article.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present that prolific author of paranormal books, Nick Redfern, author of “For Nobody’s Eyes Only: Missing Government Files and Hidden Archives That Document the Truth Behind the Most Enduring Conspiracy Theories.” Nick will answer listener questions, and explain how he discovered what might be missing, and what it might disclose about these incredible mysteries of our time.
Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt! We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” We’ve also added a huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.
To some, iWork has remained the poor stepchild at Apple. A successor to AppleWorks, it was meant to provide all of the basic productivity functions, from word processing to spreadsheets to presentations, which most regular people would need. Within the limits for advanced formatting, you could also read and write files in Microsoft Office formats, so you could be compatible with the rest of the world.
After a promising start, iWork appeared to languish in the “09” version, with only modest updates to fix bugs and enhance support for newer versions of OS X and the iOS alternatives. The iOS versions, as you might expect, focused on just the basics, avoiding the advanced features that might require too much in the way of system resources.
Between 2009 and 2013, there were occasional rumors of an impending iWork update, but it never happened. When Apple announced that iWork would henceforth be free at the recent iPad rollout event, it had to come as somewhat of a surprise, though it makes sense after the decision to do the same with the iPhone and iPad. But a number of Mac users aren’t happy with the new, free versions.
Now it does make sense that Apple would want to provide good compatibility among the OS X, iOS and cloud-based editions. That way, you’re not apt to add something to a document on one platform, only to have it fail to translate on another. Given the limited resources for the iOS version, developers are clearly constrained as to how many features they can include.
The solution appears to have been to reduce the features of the Mac version, which has gotten many complaints as a result. It reminds me of iMovie and Final Cut Pro X, both of which were overhauled, with loads of important features removed. Over time, most of the key features were either restored, or modified in a pleasing way that made these apps more productive.
Pages? Well, it’s clear Apple did a lot of work to make it run better on a Mac. On even a well-equipped iMac, the previous version was a slug, slow to launch and slow to open documents. Version 5.0, the one that ships free of charge, clearly went on a diet, and it shows. Performance is swift in almost every respect, and the use of the term lightweight is not an insult. Compared to Word, it’s lightning swift. My particular use for Pages is to write things, not add elaborate formatting, and the editing tools are decent, except for a notable and somewhat foolish interface glitch.
So, yes, there’s a track changes feature, which seems to be somewhat compatible with the one on Word, which allows you to see the changes being made by all the people who are working on a document. For writers, it means the editors can add their own input, with changes and the source of those changes visible. It smooths the editing process, and it’s one reason, among others, that publishers have demanded Word. And, in a recent update, Apple added track changes to the iOS version.
However, the process of slimming down Pages and making it more compatible with the iOS alternative has clearly meant the loss of some features that at least a portion of users require. Some templates appear to be missing in action, you can’t embed objects in footers and headers, toolbars can’t be customized, and some keyboard shortcuts no longer work. This is just the short list.
When it comes to word count, you can invoke a tiny display that floats on the bottom part of a page above the content. So if you want to keep a running total, which his not uncommon for a writer needing to fill a specific word count, you have to constantly scroll the page to keep the text from being partly obscured. This is a foolish design decision, although it looks really nice and mirrors the way word count is displayed on the iOS version. The iCloud version includes even fewer features, and word count does not appear to be among them, though maybe it’s hidden somewhere and eluded my view.
Across the three platforms, Pages looks very much the same, although the more advanced features will vary. Though still labeled beta, the iCloud version is a near twin of the Mac version, with performance that is extraordinarily swift for a Web-based app. Apple’s main target is Google Apps, which are clearly not as full-featured as Microsoft Office, but it’s getting a larger and larger share of the market.
As with Google Apps, or Office 365 for that matter, you can collaborate and you’re not wedded to a specific platform (or browser) to work on a document. Microsoft’s fees for cloud-bsed apps depend on the type of user license, but the Home Premium version is $99.99 for each one-year subscription. For that, you get a full set of desktop apps for the Mac or PC, with support for up to five devices that include Macs, PCs, and Windows 8 tablets. Google Apps used to be available in a free version, but it’s now limited only to those who had the legacy edition. The average price per user is $5 per month, or $50 per year.
iWork is free to everyone on a Mac or iOS device, and for those with an iCloud account, which offers 5GB of storage free. Extra storage starts at $20 per year for 10GB, up to $100.00 per year for 50GB. But most users can get by with free, and with free apps, Apple is a leg up on the competition.
Over time, I expect that Pages will regain some or all of the lost features, particularly as the power of an iPad and iPhone grows to sustain new capabilities. The iCloud version will likely remain in beta for a while as extra capabilities are offered. If you depended on what was lost in Pages and the other iWork apps, you’ll be pleased to know that the installation of the free editions doesn’t remove a previous installation of iWork ’09. So you lose nothing but some storage space if you decide to upgrade and find the new versions wanting.
Now we all know that Apple is selling an ecosystem, not any single app. By making iWork, iLife and Mavericks free, the alleged extra price you pay for a Mac becomes less expensive when you factor in the upkeep cost. While some might suggest the decision only justifies the higher price for a Mac, they forget that $200 was shaved off the MacBook Pro with Retina display, and the 13-inch MacBook Air was reduced by $100 in the last revision.
This free app maneuver will surely help entice more people to switch from the Windows platform. Microsoft’s dilemma is how to continue to justify the price for software. Sure, Office is a whole lot more capable than iWork for many tasks, but only if your needs encompass those tasks. Now that PC users can use iWork online, and it does open Office documents, Microsoft’s sales pitch to consumers stands to wane rapidly. Yes, businesses will continue to require Office, but selling upgrades has become more and more difficult over time. Microsoft is not in a good position here, unless some miracle occurs and the public decides they like Windows 8 and Surface tablets after all.
Based on the announcements at last week’s iPad media event, iWork and iLife became free with the purchase of new Macs and iOS gear. There is an “up-to-date” program for folks who bought earlier versions of those apps and are looking for free upgrades.
In the real world, however, the free upgrade policy appears to be a whole lot more expansive.
So within hours after the new versions of iWork and iLife went live, I found updates for both suites, with one notable exception, available on the App Store on my iMac, a late 2009 model. Yes, Mavericks was installed, but I have not purchased a new Mac since 2010, a 17-inch MacBook Pro.
The upgrade process went smoothly enough, and I noticed that Apple left iWork ’09 intact, as I stated in the previous article, most likely because the reduced feature set for the new version would constrain some users. But the new iMovie wasn’t listed as installed, nor available among the list of upgrades. If I wanted a copy, it would appear I’d have to pay the regular $14.99 price. Curious.
So I looked at the version I had on both the MacBook Pro and the iMac, and it came from iLife ’09. Although I had installed the iLife ’11 version when it came out, for some reason iMovie didn’t update, or maybe it was mistakenly restored when I wiped the drive of the iMac a year or two back.
I had also learned from the blogosphere that Apple is apparently still working on getting the kinks out of the iWork and iLife update process, so I decided to contact support. The initial request specified a $19 charge, which made little sense if all I wanted to do was save $14.99, so I requested an exception. I left my phone number in the service request form, and an Apple representative called me a few moments later.
Now I get the impression that some Apple support people haven’t received the memo yet. This particular person claimed that anyone with a Mac capable of running the App Store should be eligible for the free updates to both suites. All right, that sounded encouraging, and he assured me that I would be able to upgrade iMovie when the glitches in the system were worked out. That was even more encouraging, if true. But, as you’ll learn in a moment, it’s not.
But when I asked if they couldn’t just give me a redemption code to get the update, I was passed off to someone named Ken in the iTunes department who said no. I had to get ahold of a copy of iLife ’11, install it, and I would soon be able to upgrade to the free iMovie update (version 10 if you want to know). Or just pay the $14.99 for iMovie.
Now it wasn’t worth pursuing this matter any further. I had already spent over 30 minutes on the phone. So I searched through some boxes in the storage shed and located a copy of the iLife ’11 DVD, which had somehow survived a recent move, and went to install it. The custom installation forced me to reinstall the old version of iPhoto in addition to iMovie, but I went ahead anyway.
Once the installation was complete, I returned to the App Store, and was now offered free updates for both apps.
While all the issues of eligibility may still be confusing, Macworld’s Serenity Caldwell seems to have sorted it out well. If you still can’t get the free updates, just be patient. There’s no sense in paying for them. But, as she says, to get the latest iWork and iLife, you have to be running the previous version. If you have older editions, you would first have to buy upgrades to iWork ’09 and iLife ’11. That may, in the end, be a deal breaker.
THE FINAL WORD
The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.
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