TMO Short Take -- AppleWorks = iOffice? Or, How About iSuite?

I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of its probable influence upon the hypochondriac.

"The Fall of the House of Usher," Edgar Allan Poe

One of my favorite writers once said that when he was young, he made up this idea for a cartoon. It involved "cave men," but they would be modernized cave men; they would have cartoonized versions of cars, cities, home appliances, etc. He swears up and down that he had this idea way before William Hanna and Joe Barbera introduced "The Flintstones" to prime time television viewers.

Regardless of whether or not the above is true, I can relate, for I have similar stories to tell. Firinstance, last year, I wrote a piece called "The Night Before MACWORD" that never saw the light of day. I was almost finished when I saw a similarly titled piece appearing on-line at Macworld or MacCentral. I deleted my story and wrote something else. Tonight, I was about to write this "Short Take" when I saw a topic on the TMO Forums discussing a joined force of OS X and Linux, functioning in Corporate America as a world-class client and server, respectively.

This isnit the idea that I had in common, however. The idea that echoed mine was a comment Mac Observer Mitch Featherston made about AppleWorks 6. My version of the same comment came several weeks ago, when I finally took the time to sit down and look at AppleWorks 6 -- really look at it.

You see, up until then, I was a casual Microsoft Office user, particularly Office 98 and Office 2001. Iive never been an AppleWorks user. Up to a few weeks ago, I used exclusively Office for OS X -- mainly for e-mail (Entourage), word processing (Word) and spread sheeting (Excel). But, on a lark, at the end of last year, I decided to launch AppleWorks and see what it could do; after all, it came free with my Xmas-present iBook.

And I was more than pleasantly surprised.

"Why in the hell doesnit Apple make a bigger marketing push with this!" I shouted to no one in particular. The Wife just ignored me, shaking her head to herself; after seven years, I guess one gets used to me shouting at no one in particular, as well as my making Daffy Duck sounds ("woo-woo!") and bad imitations of the Three Stooges ("why, I oughta...").

Again: Why in the world isnit AppleWorks being marketed as the true, low-cost Office alternative that it is?

Iid written elsewhere that Apple should include AppleWorks -- or something! -- on all of its computers, "pro" as well as "consumer." Itis a no-brainer to me, and many readers agreed.

This time, I think the argument should be taken even further. Apple needs to "full-featurize" AppleWorks and rename it iOffice, or iSuite, or iSomething. I believe that Appleis knack for making intuitive digital-hub apps (iPhoto and iTunes comes to mind quite readily) would be a master stroke when applied to a "pro" version of AppleWorks. Hell, a pro version wouldnit even be necessary. Just give AppleWorks a few more features. On second thought, "as is," AppleWorks is more than enough for the average user. The only things missing are features to justify calling it a digital-hub app (I donit even think that is necessary). Imagine an application suite that integrates seamlessly with iPhoto, iDVD, and iTunes, or some other unheard-of functionality that only Apple has the ingenuity to create.

(How should Apple do this? Hell, I donit know. Iim just an "idea rat," to quote from a Dilbert comic strip.)

Reality tells us, though, that Microsoft and Apple have some written or unwritten agreement in order to keep Office for the Mac, probably at the expense of unsung praises for AppleWorks, but nevertheless my dreams of iSuite still exist. Along similar veins, Apple could buy OpenOffice or StarOffice (hey, thatis how we got iTunes, Final Cut Pro and other Apple products) and retool those open-source productivity suites into the guise of AppleWorks Pro or iSuite Pro , possibly with AppleWorks as its consumer sibling.

What do you think? Does Apple need to show Microsoft how to really make a good office suite, Office X notwithstanding? After all, who needs the myriad features in Microsoft Office? Apple, the patron saint of design minimalism, could very well make AppleWorks into an office suite that would be a more well-received app than any it has made heretofore.

AppleWorks, as it stands, is already there.

Rodney O. Lain has written every column with AppleWorks 6 since late last year, because it creates cleaner HTML versions of his columns than Microsoft Office ever will. When he isnit extolling the virtues of Apple software, Rodney writes his "iBrotha" column for The Mac Observer, as well as the occasional editorial. By day, he is an IT supervisor for a Fortune 50 company somewhere in Minnesota.