Apple is dead serious about this so-called post-PC era. Productivity – long the biggest argument against tablets replacing traditional PCs – is gradually becoming more at home on the iPad. Apps like OnLive Desktop, Photoshop Touch, and iMovie have filled what were once gaping holes in tablets' capabilities for work. Apple may now be aiming to own a bigger piece of that pie, as it's rumored to be working on a cloud-based rival to Microsoft Office.

According to a report from CRN, Apple is partnering with VMWare on a cloud-based version of its iWork suite for iPad. Though Apple already offers iPad versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, this edition would offer full desktop functionality. Using VMWare's View virtual desktop software, it would take to the cloud and bring iWork to enterprise iPad customers.

If this sounds familiar, it could be similar to OnLive Desktop, which – for a monthly fee – allows iPad and Android tablet owners to use a cloud-based version of Windows, complete with Office. Though the company has been in dire straits of late, its service is, at present, one of the best options for doing serious office work on a tablet.

Staking Out the Future

The rumored iWork suite sounds similar to OnLive Desktop

Apple would love to use the dominant status of the iPad to stake out a bigger claim of the post-PC enterprise market, but it will have competition. Microsoft Surface ships with Office, and Redmond is also rumored to be prepping an iPad version of its suite. With Office holding a virtual monopoly on enterprise office software, Apple could use an upgraded iWork to plant early seeds of change.

Much is still unknown about the (alleged) upcoming software. The report's sources didn't give a release window. It also isn't clear whether the iWork cloud app would connect to the existing iWork for Mac, or if Apple would offer a major upgrade specifically for enterprise users.

If the report is accurate, though, Apple is going all in with VMWare. The companies are also said to be collaborating on a mobile version of VMWare's Horizon Suite, which would let enterprise iPad customers create a partition between business and personal data. The iWork app would also include VMWare's Horizon Application Manager, which serves as something of an enterprise app store for IT managers.

Mobile enterprise is one of the next great technology frontiers. The next year or two may tell us more about who the dominant players will be. Does Apple have a shot, or is Microsoft going to remain in the driver's seat? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source: CRN, via 9to5Mac