A patent application filed by Apple reveals plans for a “platform independent word processor” which operates within a web browser. Apple users already have access to Pages and the rest of the iWork family, but these programs are only available on iOS and OS X. As described in the patent application, Apple’s primary concern is retaining page layout across platforms. Due to the different methods of text rendering, a two page Google Docs document may be 2.5 pages in Microsoft Word, even with font, spacing, and size equal—a nightmare for writers who have strict constraints.
Apple has been slowly moving into the cloud-space, and we expect a streaming iTunes service to be pushed out of Cupertino any day now. Expanding into Google (and Microsoft) territory could be a dangerous move, but the construction of massive datacenters and the purchase of iCloud.com suggests that Apple is going all-in. The next revision of MobileMe will likely be completely free, and there is a good chance we will see it alongside iOS 5 and Lion at WWDC.