Apple offers free iWork for iCloud to all Windows users

iCloud beta

Apple's opened the browser-based iWork for iCloud to all comers, including those who do not own an iOS or OS X device.

Too little, too late, as Microsoft has solidified Office's position since 2013, when Apple introduced its browser-based apps

Apple has opened the beta of its iWork for iCloud application suite to Windows-only users, letting people without an iOS device or OS X-powered Mac create an Apple ID needed to access the Web apps.

Apple in mid-2013 launched iWork for iCloud -- the browser-based versions of its productivity apps Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- requiring an Apple ID for access. Apple IDs are normally associated with an Apple-made device, such as an iPhone, iPad or Mac. Consumers who owned a Windows PC but also, say, an iPhone, had an Apple ID and thus were able to access iWork for iCloud.

Yesterday's change gave anyone, including those without a stake in the Apple ecosystem, access to iWork for iCloud.

iWork for iCloud, which has been in beta for more than a year and a half, is Apple's productivity answer to Microsoft's Office. Starting in the fall of 2013, Apple began giving away the iOS and OS X iWork apps to new buyers of iPhones, iPads and Macs; iWork for iCloud is the browser-based side of those apps.

The availability of iWork for iCloud will tempt few if any Windows-only consumers: They have free access to Microsoft's own Web apps, dubbed Office Online.

Although analysts thought that Apple's move might draw some Windows users when the Cupertino, Calif. company launched the free iWork and iWork for iCloud, that was before Microsoft started giving away its Office iOS apps to consumers. Since 2013, Microsoft has not only handed out Excel, PowerPoint and Word apps to iPad- and iPhone-owning consumers -- albeit with some advanced features requiring an Office 365 subscription -- but the Redmond, Wash. developer has significantly improved Office Online in the interim.

Office, for all the potential for problems down the line, remains the standard productivity suite in both commercial and consumer markets.

The sole advantage that iWork for iCloud holds is that it can be used free of charge for work-related tasks. Legally, users of Office Online must have a business-grade subscription to Office 365 to use the apps for commercial purposes.

Unlike iWork for iCloud when associated with an Apple ID linked to an Apple device, the Web apps for Windows-only customers come with just 1GB of online storage space. More iCloud capacity can be purchased for 99 cents per month for 20GB, $3.99 for 200GB, $9.99 for 500GB or $19.99 for 1TB.

Interested Windows users can create an Apple ID from the banner notification on the iCloud beta website.

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