iWork Collaboration in the iCloud

This week, Apple released some pretty nice upgrades to the web-based iWork apps in iCloud. The improvements include more fonts, more chart options, and the ability to handle larger sized files. The experience really is quite remarkable. If you haven’t yet, log into your iCloud account and create a document in iCloudy-Pages. You’ll be surprised. You may even forget that you are doing this all in a browser. One of the other updates was the ability to have up to 100 collaborators. It was this bit that had me most interested.

Google Documents really is the standard for online document collaboration. I’ve used that tool for years and, while it isn’t all that pretty, it absolutely nails the ability to have multiple people typing on one document at the same time. While Apple is now moving this direction, it hasn’t got there yet. Yesterday I had a small writing project with a Mac-savvy client and I decided to do it collaboratively with him using iCloud Pages. I figured that if the application can support 100 collaborators, it should be pretty solid with just two. It still isn’t.

While the experiment ultimately worked and he could see what I was typing, it was hardly simultaneous. Basically, we discussed and I wrote and he waited for the changes to show up, which happened about 30 seconds after I typed. If he typed anything on his side (even just a space bar), I got a conflict message on my end and had to pick a version to become gospel. While I think Apple is nailing the “productivity app in a web browser” part, they still have work their work cut out for them on the collaboration part.