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Apple loosens anti-piracy protection in iWork ’09

Buyers of the latest version of Apple's rising iWork productivity suite — iWork '09 — no longer need to type in a serial number when installing from a CD, according to a note on Apple's Web site posted Monday.

That allows owners of the boxed, retail version of iWork '09 to install the software on as many Macs as they want. They can apparently even share the software, which costs $79 for a single user version ($49 if bought at same time as a new Mac), with family, friends and co-workers with no repercussions.

Apple introduced iWork '09 at Macworld earlier this month. The software was lightly refreshed, with new cloud features being the highlight.

First released in January 2005, iWork has made steady inroads against Microsoft Corp.'s Office for the Mac.

As of mid-2007, Mac Office still outsold iWork by more than a five to one margin among North American consumers, according to the NPD Group Inc. By last year, however, Mac Office's lead over iWork had slipped to just a two to one margin.

“iWork is doing pretty good,” said Stephen Baker , an NPD analyst. Sales “volume is growing.”

Despite working only with Macs, iWork held 10.5% of the overall North American retail market for productivity software last year, said Baker.

Microsoft Office held virtually all of the remaining market share, due to its domination of the still far-larger Windows platform.

But both suites face strong, free challengers in the form of an upgraded OpenOffice 3.0 for the Mac and IBM's new Lotus Symphony for the Mac.

Baker applauds Apple's move as a consumer-friendly one. “I think Apple is less concerned about piracy than ease of use,” he said.

Apple already lets its multimedia software suite, iLife , be installed without a serial number. iLife comes for free with each new Mac.

It's unclear whether Apple will continue to sell its $99 five-user pack for iWork. Users who buy iWork '09 by upgrading a trial version of software downloaded from the Internet still need to use a serial number when installing.

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