How Apple's iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, and iCloud change the game

More than a step up in user experience, Apple's forthcoming desktop, mobile, and cloud federation hits Google and Microsoft where it hurts

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The federation extends to iWork, Apple's suite of productivity apps (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers). Already, iOS devices and Macs can work on the same iWork (and Microsoft Office) documents via the automatic iCloud Documents syncing service. But you can't create and edit documents in a Web browser from another device, such as a PC or Chromebook, or someone else's Mac or iOS device. iWork in the Cloud changes that.

Expected by year's end, iWork in the Cloud lets you go to your account from any PC running Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer -- versions not noted, and apparently not in Firefox -- and create and edit iWork documents with largely the same rich capabilities as you can natively in iOS or OS X. From what Apple demoed, it puts Google Drive and Office 365 for Web to shame. It also brings iWork to the PC without needing a native Windows version. There was no comment from Apple as to whether iWork in the Cloud will be supported in Chrome on Android or Chrome OS, or IE in Windows RT/Metro.

Finally, the integration continues at the user interface level. iOS 7 has a radically simplified, engaging UI, leveraging the gestures people already know but with a visual approach that focuses more on the content and less on the skin -- Windows Phone's notion but more sophisticated here. (iOS 7's risk is it makes the classic hip-designer mistake of too-thin text or too-light text that may be visually elegant but hard to read.) OS X has been moving in that direction as well, and from what Apple showed at WWDC, both OS X Mavericks and Safari 7 advance along that road, adopting some of iOS 7's "edge to edge" design where the skin disappears when unused and appears as translucent overlays when needed. iOS 7 is leading the charge, but it's not on its own.

Because so many iOS apps are now in OS X -- Safari, Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Maps, Siri, Notes, Reminders, iTunes, iWork, Game Center, iPhoto, iBooks, and App Store -- and because iCloud, notifications, social media integration and other sharing services, and some settings work essentially the same way on both OSes and in Apple's, the distinction among Mac, iOS device, and browser services will grow even fuzzier, working instead like a fabric of computing services on the one or more devices you have at hand. That's the goal, and from what Apple has shown at WWDC this year, it's made a huge leap toward that end.

Google lacks a real desktop presence outside of Chrome, and the Android and Chrome OS environments share little beyond Chrome and parts of the Google Play market. Microsoft's PC (Windows 8), mobile (Windows RT/Metro and Windows Phone), and cloud services (Office 365) are the opposite of seamless, though they share some settings and data. All of a sudden, they look like they've fallen behind. Apple's combination of greater federation and its new slick, compelling user experience will up-end the market again.

Apple certainly believes it has regained the upper hand with iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, and the updated iCloud -- marketing VP Phl Schiller cracked at WWDC, "Apple can't innovate any more, my ass." I think he's right. Apple is nowhere out of ideas or the ability to execute on them. I'm sure Google will continue to advance its platforms, though Microsoft is less certain to do so. We won't see annual breakthroughs -- that's simply not possible -- but I'm betting Apple has quite a many few years of innovation to deliver us. We'll get the new wave of that this fall.

This article, "How Apple's iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, and iCloud change the game," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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