It’s that time of year again. Twice a year, in January and in July, something special happens. Journalists’ and bloggers’ keyboards are aflutter, eye-strain headaches abound from staring at grainy “spy shots” of a certain theater in San Francisco, and the rumor mills swell uncontrollably with what Dear Leader, Steve Jobs, might unveil.
This year’s Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference is obviously no different. The past few days have seen the almost certain prediction of the iPhone 3G and the probably rebranding of .Mac to MobileMe. But there’s always something that slips in unnoticed. I originally thought that it was way too soon for us to be hearing anything about a new iWork update, since iWork ’08 hasn’t been out for very long. But all the speculation about a possible OS upgrade has me thinking otherwise since Leopard came out months after iWork ’08.
Personally I hope (as I have anxiously hoped for the last two iWork releases) to see Apple get firmly behind the OpenDocument standard for its suite of programs so that iWork gains a TRUE place in a mixed platform corporate (and home) environment. OpenDocument makes a lot of sense for the following reasons:
1) Apple has a history of supporting open standards where it bolsters its business and reduces the complexity on their own developers,
2) it would be FAR easier for Apple to implement than native support for OOXML (heck, it’s even easier for Microsoft to implement in their OWN product than OOXML),
3) No more dialogs asking, “Do you want to save this in iWork ’06 format, iWork ’08 format, iWork…. ” What’s good for one is good for everyone.
4) OpenDocument is extensible so they could… possibly… implement such features as Numbers’ multi-table-on-a-single-sheet feature (not sure about the viability of this one), and
5) it will make Apple not look like they’re drinking Microsoft’s Kool-Aid, while, when native ODF support is added to MS Office next year, Apple will be totally compatible and competitive with not just most Windows users but Linux/open source advocates too.
6) Apple obviously has expressed interest in heating up competition with Microsoft on the desktop since the disaster called Vista. If Apple ever hopes to bring iWork to Windows, joining iTunes and Safari, they’ll need to have a document format that’s not based on bundles. A .pages file is just a folder as far as Windows is concerned.
Of course, the obvious argument against this is the tremendous effort that Apple has put into evolving its own XML document format. It’s hard to see Apple just tossing all their work that brought them so far so fast in iWork’s three year life. But for myself, I would love to see an ODF-native iWork so that I can use a program with Apple-pizaaz and not have to depend on the upcoming OpenOffice 3.0. While it is the best ODF program on the market, they just don’t “get” the Mac platform. Their clunky beta looks and feels like it belongs on a Windows ME installation, not on Mac OS X (or just OS X Leopard, as the new banners seem to have rebranded it).