iWork (Mac, iOS, iCloud)

Apple for years offered iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand iOS apps as a $4.99 download each.

On the Mac, those apps which comprise the iLife suite come bundled with new Mac purchases and Apple’s been very actively advertising them as one of the reasons people switch to the Mac.

As for the iWork productivity suite – comprised of the Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet maker and Keynote presentation creator – users are expected to pay $19.99 each on the Mac side and $9.99 each on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Some watchers think the advent of the free iWork for iCloud web apps with full editing capabilities (currently in beta) may signal Apple’s intention to make the entire iWork suite a free affair, giving people one less reason to consider rival platforms. Today, a German blog has discovered an interesting change in the first-run App Store screen in the latest iOS 7 Beta 3 that surprisingly adds individual iWork/iLife apps as free downloads…

The German blog iFun discovered the screenshot below that offers a chance to download Apple’s previously paid-for iOS apps Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iPhoto and iMovie for free. This is a first for these apps as the screen in the past offered only Apple’s free apps like iBooks, iTunes U and Podcasts.

“It would make a lot of sense given it’s hard to imagine Apple allowing users to create documents for free on iCloud but not seamlessly transfer from iOS to Mac without having to throw down $30 for the three iOS apps”, 9to5Mac’s Jordan Kahn remarked.

iOS 7 Beta 3 (App Store first-run, free iLife and iWork downloads)

The possibility of free of charge iWork and iLife iOS apps was first speculated on by Mark Gurman, who in a rare opinion piece posted earlier this month over at 9to5Mac hinted at uncorroborated whispers claiming “Apple has been discussing ways to make its iWork for iOS and Mac apps free at some point in the next year”.

This wouldn’t be unheard-of.

Last month, Apple at WWDC announced iTunes Radio, a Pandora-like service offered free of charge in exchange for some ads, in stark contrast to Google’s Play Music All Access $9.99 a month subscription service.

iTunes Radio will be released as part of iOS 7 this Fall. As for Google, the company back in May officially promised to bring All Access music streaming to iOS “in the coming weeks”.

iWork for iCloud Beta (web screenshot 001)

Apple has revealed intent to bolster up its productivity offering by revealing iWork for iCloud during the WWDC keynote. Currently available as a beta for Apple’s registered developers, the suite, similar to Google Docs and Office 360, allows users to view and edit iWork, and other documents right from their browser, supporting rich web interface and full editing capabilities.

Last week, Apple made the web suite available to its employees for personal use.

iWork for iCloud (Pages 001)

As for iWork/iLife, in a world where Google continues to make inroads in desktop and enterprise productivity with its Google Docs suit of free or affordable offerings, and with Microsoft betting on a subscription-based model with Office 365, Apple needs to offer a better value to customers looking to edit documents or organize their media on the go.

And what better way to keep them glued to the platform than offer these premium offerings free of charge to anyone who purchases an iOS device.

Clever move, indeed.