Apple tries to catch up to Google Docs with latest iWork collaboration tools

Apple announced some exciting products today, but one of the most interesting announcements was a little overshadowed. Apple has long been a supporter of education, as Tim Cook pointed out in today’s keynote, and one part of today’s announcement will undoubtedly be of interest to students but is pretty big news for enterprise Mac users.

Apple’s iWork suite is going to go head-to-head with Google and Microsoft with its new real-time collaboration features. The iWork suite — Pages, Numbers and Keynote — are finally getting a feature that will put iWork into direct competition with Google Documents, and of course Microsoft’s Office 365. iWork’s real-time collaboration tools were even demoed live on stage.

Yep, you can work on documents, spreadsheets, and Keynote stacks with co-workers or classmates in real-time.

The collaboration tools were designed with education and business in mind, but Apple played up the education angle during the keynote, bringing out VP Susan Prescott to discuss the education-facing offerings. Apple revealed the new feature in a brief on-stage demo, which showed a few people working on a Keynote stack.

Of particular interest for iPhone and iPad owners, the new collaboration tools will be cross-platform. You’ll be able to collaborate on documents from your iPhone, from your iPad, or from your Mac.

Naturally, Apple was a little coy when it came to a release date, stating that the collaboration features will be coming to iWork’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote “soon,” but shied away from any concrete release dates.

It’s been a big year for Apple’s education tools, with the release of Apple Classroom and the massive success of Apple’s education outreach efforts — which VP Susan Prescott highlighted during the announcement of the iWork collaboration tools.

Apple’s contribution to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative has been extended to 114 schools, including classroom and device support for 4500 teachers, to whom Apple has donated MacBooks and iPads for use in the classroom.

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