Daniel Eran Dilger
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Office Wars 1 – Claris and the Origins of Apple iWork

Office Wars 1: Claris and the Origins of Apple’s iWork
Daniel Eran Dilger
How does Apple’s iWork 08 compare to Microsoft Office for Mac? One might expect the new version of iWork 08 to blow away Office for Mac, which hasn’t seen an update since 2004. That was back in the days of Mac OS X Panther, and before the release of the iMac G5 let alone Intel Macs. Office for Mac is ancient.

Office Wars 1 – Claris and the Origins of Apple’s iWork
Office Wars 2 – Microsoft’s Outrageous Office Profits
Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly
Office Wars 4 – Microsoft’s Assault on Lotus and IBM
How does Apple’s iWork 08 compare to Microsoft Office for Mac? One might expect the new version of iWork 08 to blow away Office for Mac, which hasn’t seen an update since 2004. That was back in the days of Mac OS X Panther, and before the release of the iMac G5 let alone Intel Macs. Office for Mac is ancient.

Conversely, one might also expect that Apple could never catch up to Office, given that this is only the third version of iWork since it debuted in 2005, while Microsoft has been working on Office for Mac since 1989. Before that, Microsoft sold Works for the Mac, and standalone versions of Word and Excel.

So which is it? This series presents an overall comparison of what each offers, strengths and weaknesses, and how it is that Apple is competing against its own largest third party developer for the Mac.

Part 1: Claris and the Origins of Apple’s iWork.
iWork certainly isn’t Apple’s first effort in productivity software. In addition to selling AppleWorks for the Apple II line, Apple shipped the 1983 Lisa computer with a complete office suite including the apps LisaWrite, Calc, List, Project, Draw, Paint, and Terminal.

Lisa reviews gave its software better marks than the rest of the system, but third party developers complained that the bundled software prevented a market for their own apps.

For the 1984 Macintosh, Apple only included the simple MacWrite, MacDraw, and MacPaint, which were supposed to serve as placeholder demonstration apps.

[Lisa Office System 3.1]
[A History of Apple’s Lisa, 1979-1986]

 Rd Rdm.Tech.Q3.07 Fda55397-Ee9A-40B8-B3Ea-89371A910D9F Files Lisaos31Graph

The Birth of Claris.
Third party developers were still annoyed that these bundled titles limited the potential market for retail software. To placate them, Apple spun off its internally developed Apple II and Mac application software into a new subsidiary called Claris in 1987, led by Apple’s VP of Marketing, Bill Campbell.

The next year, Claris bought Nashoba for its FileMaker database as well as StyleWare, a company developing a productivity suite for the Apple IIGS called GSWorks. In advance advertising, StyleWare billed GSWorks as a replacement for AppleWorks, suggesting “think of it as AppleWorks GS.”

The project was finished at Claris and actually did ship as AppleWorks GS, alongside the existing AppleWorks for the 8-bit Apple II systems.

Claris planned to use the StyleWare team to develop a Mac version of AppleWorks to compete against Microsoft’s Works program. Like the old AppleWorks, Microsoft Works was a single integrated application with basic word processing, spreadsheet, and database tools.

[The Life and Times of AppleWorks GS – Juiced GS]


The Claris Adolescence.
Claris gave up on plans to build an integrated ‘works’ productivity app and continued efforts to assemble a suite of standalone apps. FileMaker, MacWrite, MacPaint, and MacDraw were given a homogenizing facelift and a “II” suffix, and began to sell well.

Scott Holdaway and Bob Hearn, two of the original developers from StyleWare, were more interested in developing new software than maintaining existing and acquired titles, so they left Claris in the late 80s to develop a new integrated productivity application for the Mac. Claris then bought their work and rehired them in 1990.

The Claris sold the new integrated software title as ClarisWorks rather than using AppleWorks or a Mac related name. That’s because the Claris subsidiary was intended to eventually split from Apple and go public as a software company. It planned to expand into selling Windows software after its independence.


[A Brief History of ClarisWorks – Bob Hearn]

The Short and Tumultuous Golden Age of Claris.
The outstanding success of Claris software sales resulted in Apple CEO John Sculley deciding to retain the company under Apple’s ownership and control. That in turn caused Campbell and other managers to leave, and morale among employees to nosedive.

Along with ClarisWorks, the company deliverd FileMaker Pro and MacWrite Pro in a belated update, later joined by the new Claris Impact presentation title and Claris Resolve, a rebranding of the WingZ spreadsheet acquired from Informix in 1990.

Within a year of its release, the new ClarisWorks application was popular enough to outsell Microsoft Works on the Mac. When Microsoft began selling Works in a box labeled “Best-Selling Integrated Application for the Macintosh,” Claris forced them to remove the sticker because it wasn’t true anymore.

Claris’ software was well regarded, but it ran into increasing difficulties that mirrored those of Apple: erratic management problems and a lack of clear direction. That resulted in a loss of engineering talent while its existing portfolio of applications fell behind.

ClarisWorks history

The Death of Claris.
Claris began shipping a Windows version of ClarisWorks and acquired new Internet applications, including HomePage for developing web pages and the OfficeMail email server and Emailer client.

In 1995, Apple mandated that ClarisWorks would showcase its latest development idea: OpenDoc component software. This required a complete reengineering of the application, but in 1996 Apple was able to demonstrate an OpenDoc based ClarisWorks 5.0 at WWDC.

Worsening management problems at both Claris and Apple resulted in its core team of engineers leaving to start an independent project called Gobe; they would later deliver a program similar to ClarisWorks for the new BeOS called Gobe Productive.

Meanwhile, Microsoft recruited away three of the OpenDoc engineers at Claris, leaving Apple unable to ship ClarisWorks 5.0 with OpenDoc support and without much of an alternative plan on any front.

With the future prospects of ClarisWorks scuttled, Microsoft stopped ongoing development of both Works and Office for the Mac to direct all attention toward Office 95 for its new Windows 95.

[Apple in the Web Browser Wars: Netscape vs Internet Explorer]
[First Public Demo of ClarisWorks Container and Cyberdog – MacTech]

Apple in the Web Browser Wars: Netscape vs Internet Explorer]

The Legacy of Claris.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, Claris ended up being essentially renamed as FileMaker to continue selling the desktop database as its only remaining popular app.

Apple itself began selling the aging ClarisWorks suite under the name AppleWorks and dropped the Windows version. Other apps were discontinued apart from Claris Organizer, which was sold off and ended up as Palm Desktop for Mac.

Campbell, Claris’ original CEO, had moved to Intuit. In 1997, Job invited him to sit on Apple’s board to share his expertise in selling software.

The group that formed Gobe were shipwrecked by the failure of BeOS. After Be abandoned the BeOS to concentrate on selling an information appliance, Gobe began distributing the BeOS itself. Efforts to release the Gobe software as open source were attempted, but no funding could be found for it.

Apple hired three of the Gobe founders, Scott Holdaway, Scott Lindsey, and Carl Grice, and subsequently began work on new applications for Mac OS X.

AppleWorks and Office for Mac: 1997 – 2001.
In 1997, Apple was still struggling to turn around its operations, and desperately needed support from big name developers. It signed a deal with Microsoft to ensure the delivery of ongoing development of Office on the Mac for the next five years. Despite earning lots of money on Office for Mac, Microsoft hadn’t updated it since 1994.

As Microsoft delivered Office 98 for Mac, Apple shipped AppleWorks 5.0 and then delivered a carbonized 6.0 version in 2000. It was very clear that AppleWorks was a dead end product however. Apple wanted new native apps developed for Mac OS X, not just rewarmed classic Mac apps like Office 98 and AppleWorks. However, it lacked the resources to begin developing new apps itself.

Somewhat ironically, a complete suite of well regarded apps had been developed for NeXTSTEP by Lighthouse Design, and could have been ported to Mac OS X without much work. However, Sun had bought the company during its fling with OpenStep in 1996, but after losing interest in its NeXT partnership, it left the apps to rot. After a failed attempt to convert some into Java apps, Sun gave up on them entirely.

With several of the best NeXT apps simply thrown away and many large developers wary of investing any efforts in the new Mac OS X, the Office for Mac agreement with Microsoft was critically important to give Apple the breathing room to focus on shipping Mac OS X.

[Mac Office, $150 Million, and the Story Nobody Covered]
[Why Apple Bounced Back: Apple’s Software Explosion]
[Why OS X is on the iPhone, but not the PC: The History of OpenStep]
[The Secrets of Pink, Taligent and Copland: The Industry Scatters]

Mac Office and Millions

New Productivity Apps for Mac OS X.
Apple had earlier delivered a series of Pro apps starting with Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro. It also shipped a series of consumer content apps, including iMovie, iTunes, iDVD, and iPhoto. After the mainstream version of Mac OS X shipped as 10.2 Jaguar in 2002, Apple began work to develop its own new productivity apps to show off the capabilities of the new system.


Keynote: The first was Keynote in 2003, which while compatible with Microsoft’s PowerPoint files, delivered a fresh take on building presentations. Built using Apple’s new frameworks, Keynote demonstrated features unique to Mac OS X such as Quartz’ powerful compositing and translucency effects.

Keynote 1.0

It also pioneered a template driven user interface, giving users a choice of several distinctive template themes as a starting point and an overall design language for a presentation’s fonts, colors, textures, and element styling.

Keynote borrowed concepts from Concurrence, one of the Lighthouse Design apps for NeXTSTEP that was bought up by Sun in 1996 and then locked up in a closet and left to die. Concurrence originally sold for $995; Keynote 1.0 was $99.

Jobs’ regular keynote presentations demonstrated the app’s abilities, and it was also prominently featured in “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s movie on climate change.

[Does Sun want to become the next Microsoft? – Java World]


Pages: Two years later in 2005, Apple released Pages as a template based page layout tool. Users familiar with Keynote would also find Pages intuitive, as they both used a similar interface of inspector panels with largely identical tool behaviors.

Pages was bundled with Keynote 2.0 in a new suite called iWork in 2005. At $79, iWork had a lower price than Keynote had been alone.

iWeb: The next year, the team working on Pages and Keynote released iWeb for building web pages, although iWeb was bundled with the separate iLife suite. All three applications used a very similar interface and tools.

The addition of a spreadsheet application to iWork was widely rumored since the release of iWork 06; its version of Keynote had added basic support for tables with formulas.

Numbers: This year’s iWork 08 includes a full fledged spreadsheet, again using a template driven design and highlighting presentation features that make it not just an Excel clone, but a custom designed solution for both analyzing figures and presenting attractive reports.

New in iWork 08.
The latest version of iWork pushes beyond being a collection of apps to deliver a real productivity suite that shows off the features of Mac OS X. The iWork apps are also integrated with iLife, using the same Media browser and sharing various interface conventions.

A significant change across the new iWork apps is an adaptive menu Apple calls the Format Bar, which presents tools related to the task at hand in a strip under the customizable Toolbar common to most Mac OS X apps.

iWork window
iWorks view menu

In each app, a View drop down menu of graphical icons (right) allows the user to customize components visible in the window, including the Format Bar, rulers, comments, and other elements.

All three apps also now present templates as a style that can be changed after the fact, allowing a user to start with one template, then experiment with different styles by selecting a new template.

Also new is the dual mode version of Pages, which has shifted from a page layout tool into both a more complete word processor and a real desktop publishing app with the ability to flow text between text boxes.

While Apple has incorporated key features of Office, Apple’s direction with iWork isn’t designed to copy Office, but rather to offer a far less expensive alternative productivity suite that demonstrates the features of Mac OS X.

The next articles will look at how well iWork 08 measures up to Microsoft’s Office for Mac and the free OpenOffice clone distributed by Sun, and how it is that Microsoft came to own a lock on the entire PC productivity applications market.

[Office Wars 2 – Microsoft’s Outrageous Office Profits
[iWork – Amazon]

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