Rumors Swirl Around Apple Office Suite

Exactly one week before Macworld begins in San Francisco, details have emerged about a rumored replacement to Apple's aging AppleWorks productivity suite. Called iWork '05 and code-named "Sugar," the new suite is expected include Keynote 2 and introduce a word processing application currently know as "Pages."

Meanwhile, Apple's iLife will be refreshed with a new version of GarageBand that will be complemented by Jam Pack 4.

As first reported by Think Secret, iWork '05 will require a 500MHz processor and Mac OS X version 10.3.6. It is thought that the software will be protected by a serial number to ward off piracy, which would be a new tact for Apple. Think Secret also speculates that the suite will be bundled with all new Mac systems, including the new sub $500 iMac.

iWork has been a favorite topic in the Apple rumor mill after information about the product's development leaked out nearly two years ago. If the report proves to be legitimate, the suite joins OpenOffice.org as an alternative to Microsoft's Mac Office 2004.

Commenting on the potential for conflict with Microsoft, Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox told BetaNews, "I don't see any immediate conflict with Microsoft over Mac Office, because our data doesn't indicate many consumers are planning to buy a productivity suite anyway. They just don't think they need one, which may or may not be true."

"But that doesn't mean a full productivity suite or integrated works package wouldn't bring them value. So, assuming the iWork rumors are true, by offering a free productivity product Apple could fill an important software niche among iMac and iBook customers," said Wilcox.

Think Secret has revealed that GarageBand 2 is also set for a Macworld debut and will ship with Jam Pack 4, formerly known as "Hermann" during beta testing. Jam Pack will be formally named Symphony Orchestra, and is expected to feature 2,000 additional Apple Loops and 30 new concert instruments. Aside from the product's established ties to GarageBand, Symphony Orchestra will be compatible with Logic Express 7 and Logic Pro 7.

An Apple spokesperson did not return requests for comment by press time.

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