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It's in the Numbers

Apple reach a tipping point by releasing the one office application long conspicuous in its absence.

There's a famous scene in Pirates of Silicon Valley where a fake Steve Jobs walks past a boardroom at Apple, sees an IBM suit being interviewed for a job, walks in barefoot, sits down munching on an apple, and puts his bare feet up on the table - and right in the IBM suit's face.

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The ostentatious disdain for all things business, long a part of Apple, might be fading away at last.

There's money in Numbers.

Apple's Spreadsheet

It's almost like VisiCalc reincarnated - well not quite. iWork '08 will have the long rumoured Numbers - what promises to be the first mainstream commercial spreadsheet application with any chance of market share besides the excoriated Excel.

With Numbers Apple promise to introduce a 'whole new way to work with spreadsheets'.

Looking as much like a presentation tool like Keynote as a traditional spreadsheet application, Numbers doesn't clutter documents with empty grids but offers a blank canvas on which one can place 'intelligent tables', 2D and 3D charts, images, text labels, and even photos. Move anything anywhere you like.

Formulas can use 'plain language' instead of cryptic cell identifiers.

And most importantly it imports and exports Excel files saved in an open XML format or CSV. It can also deal with OFX documents and - like almost all OS X applications - can export as PDF through the system's printing facility.

A new interactive printing facility finishes the dazzle off - items can be rearranged and resized in a preview (slightly reminiscent of Pagemaker) screen before sending the job off to the spooler.

Numbers vs Excel

Things come full circle: VisiCalc was developed for the Apple and is considered the first 'serious' application for microcomputers. Lisa was once part of Apple's business unit. Since then things have gone to Birkenstocks and batik shirts.

No one even in their wildest dreams thinks business suits are fun. Or cool. Or any less gray than they are. But everyone knows they have money. And lots of it. If you want to sell computer hardware and software they're the people to sell it to.

And now Apple overcome the last obstacle standing in the way of entering - and conquering - the business market: the spreadsheet. And with the hair pulling Excel's caused over the years Apple's new Numbers is going to look doubly attractive.

The Cocoa Numbers is part of iWork '08, retails for only $79, and runs on the superior OS X. How much does Excel cost?

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