Plenty of people, including some of us at TUAW, thought an updated iWork suite would debut alongside iLife at the recent "Back to the Mac" event. iWork was a no-show at that event, however, and AppleInsider claims it's because Apple is holding off on a release of iWork '11 until the launch of the Mac App Store in January.
AppleInsider notes that images shown during the event showed each iWork application available for individual purchase at US$19.99 each on the Mac App Store. Even purchased separately at this price, the three applications that make up Apple's iWork suite (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) would cost less than Apple's current $79 price for the iWork '09 bundle.
Precedent exists in this area: iPad versions of Apple's iWork apps are available for $9.99 each on the App Store. It's possible that Apple could be going digital-only for iWork '11 and selling it exclusively as a means of "eating its own dog food" -- by committing to selling its own iWork applications exclusively via the Mac App Store, Apple would demonstrate that it has confidence in the endeavor.
This is a change I'd welcome, personally; while I use Pages every day, I use Keynote only a few times per year, and I've launched Numbers maybe once or twice since buying iWork. Paying $40 for one essential app and one "nice to have if I need it" app is a lot easier to swallow than paying $79 for the entire suite. For that reason alone, I'm looking forward to the Mac App Store.