Yesterday Apple made an announcement that we will not likely know the ramifications of (fully) for some time. That announcement centered around their software: iWork, iLife, and OS X are now free (as is iOS iWork and iOS itself). For many this will be seen as a nice little gift from Apple. iLife is solid, OS X is excellent, and iWork is mostly better than Office for 90% of users (power users being the 10% exempted). ((My argument here is that if you are starting fresh to office suites, iWork is easier to learn and get value out of. Excel is really the only reason Office is better, but that’s only for in-depth data analysis, as the rest of the features are largely replicated in Numbers.))
With that single announcement Apple made their software a feature of their devices, and not the other way around.
Now when a buyer compares a Windows laptop to a Mac, they need to factor the cost of Office to it, because you essentially get that software free with your Mac. You also need to factor in Windows upgrade pricing (not that Windows users upgrade).
Your MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini spec sheet now includes a bullet point that reads: Office apps included.
While it is obvious to draw the attack Apple lobbed towards Microsoft, it is also very much a direct response to Google.
Google’s office suite is free, has better collaboration, and runs everywhere. (Even though I’ve never liked it, I am sure it is prevalent in schools.) There’s no way not to see the new iWork with iCloud integration for collaborating as anything but a response to Google’s offering.
Apple’s two largest competitors are Microsoft and Google. On the Microsoft front Apple wants to kill them with free software (as software is where Microsoft makes their money). On the Google front Apple wants to kill them with with *better* software (as Google needs quantity of users to make money).
It’s a smart plan. It may not work, but it’s a smart plan nonetheless.