Apple's iWork upgrade screwup has Microsoft laughing all the way to the bank

Apple might have thought it was doing Mac users a favor with its free upgrade of iWork last week, but Microsoft instead has been the recipient of the gift. iWork users are so angry with Apple for dumbing it down that many will be giving it up for Office.

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports that the upgrade has angered users so much, they're inundating Apple's support forums with complaints about features that Apple killed. Keizer writes:

One customer called Apple "serial software killers," while others collaborated to list the features Apple dropped in Pages, the word processing application and the most popular of the three that make up the iWork suite. Among the Pages tools that went AWOL in last week's upgrade: endnotes, the outline view, selection of non-contiguous text, facing pages, saving files in RTF format, significant limitations in automating workflow using AppleScript, and more than 100 ready-to-use templates.

Two threads on Apple's support forum are the focus of users' vitriol: Why does Apple get rid of so many useful features in new pages? and Pages 5 features checklist. As I write this, they have nearly 1000 comments, and more than 50,000 page views of those threads. Keizer says accurately: "Few of the customers commenting in the two threads had anything nice to say about Apple's move."

Justifiably so. Upgrades are supposed to make software better, not worse. They're supposed to add features, not take them away. (As Microsoft knows well from the wrath it incurred by killing the Start menu and button in Windows 8.)

Analysts say Apple dumbed down the suite so that it would be cross-compatible with iWork for iOS. But users don't care about cross-compatibility. They care about getting work done. And they're livid at Apple, because they're having a difficult time getting work done with iWork. The user Luke Christin sums up the feeling of many when he wrote on the forum:

"Seriously, does anyone outside Cupertino 'absolutely love' to see the same interface on mobile and Mac?

"One of the problems with never doing consumer research is that Apple has lost touch with how serious users actually use the product. Quite simply, I would never, ever, want to write a Pages document or a Keynote presentation on my phone... what might seem 'super-cool' to Apple dudes on campus in California is not very practical in the real world of making a living in London."

Many people on the forums said that iWork is so bad, they're turning to Microsoft Office instead, as a way of getting work done.

All this only reinforces the image of Macs, iPhones, and iPads as playthings, and Windows devices what you need for getting serious work done. And it feeds right into Microsoft's criticism of iWork as a useless productivity application, and the iPad as a toy, not a productivity device. Last week, Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft, on the Official Microsoft Blog called Apple's new iPads overpriced, called iWork  a pointless piece of software, and said iPads don't stack up against Surface tablets when it comes to productivity. He wrote:

"Apple announced yesterday that they were dropping their fees on their 'iWork' suite of apps. Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it’s hardly that surprising or significant a move."

He added this zinger:

"So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don’t see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up."

He wrote all that about iWork on iPads. That was bad enough. But now, he can say the same thing about iWork and Macs --- Macs aren't serious productivity tools because iWork can't perform even basic tasks that users need.

Microsoft will now certainly say that you can turn a Mac into a serious productivity tool. All you need to do is buy Microsoft Office. So Microsoft is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to  Apple's latest move. They may want to send a thank-you note -- one written with a fully powered word processor, Word, not an inept one like Page.

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