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Microsoft: Apple's new iPad with free iWork is no big deal

As Apple treads into Microsoft Office territory, Redmond touts its Surface tablets while taking some verbal potshots at the iPad maker.

Microsoft's Surface tablets come with Office for free; and now, Apple's iPad comes with iWork for free.

Microsoft mouthpiece Frank Shaw penned a blog post Wednesday about Apple's new iPad, which for the first time comes with free iWork and iLife software. Shaw's post is titled "Apple and oranges," but it appears to also include some sour grapes.

Microsoft has taken the iPad to task since the introduction of its own Surface tablet, pointing to features like the Surface's optional keyboard-type covers and built-in Office software as things that set the Microsoft slate apart. Now that Apple has addressed some of that criticism by introducing free iWork and iLife, Microsoft is still not having it.

"Since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it's hardly that surprising or significant a move," Shaw wrote. "And it doesn't change the fact that it's much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking."

Apple unveiled its new renamed iPad Air and an iPad Mini with Retina Display on Tuesday, announcing that the tablets would come with a new version of iWork. The idea is for the tablets to serve as both work and entertainment devices -- much like what Microsoft aims for with its Surface tablets. Apple's new iWork lets users collaborate with other people in the cloud and share and work on files in the Pages, Keynote, and Numbers apps.

This new iWork suite has been seen as posing a challenge to such services as Google Docs and Microsoft's Office 365. The fact that iWork will be free for buyers of new Macs or iOS devices appears to be a dig specifically intended against Office 365, which requires an annual subscription. Both the Surface and Surface 2 tablets include Office for free, however.

"Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world's most popular, most powerful productivity software, for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively," Shaw wrote. "Making Apple's decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal."

There's no question that Microsoft is a venerable tech leader in the productivity-software category. These productivity tools are the company's biggest revenue stream after Windows. And it's most likely no coincidence that Apple timed its new iWork launch as Microsoft is readying its release of Office on the iPad. Maybe this is some of the reason for Shaw's sour grapes.

"When I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don't see a shot across our bow," he wrote, "I see an attempt to play catch up."

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