I’m not a huge user of presentation software. I’m blessed to not work for a corporate and hence don’t have to justify my existence with a 40 slide deck resplendent in 12 point text and bad transitions.

Yup – it’s fair to say I’m not a huge fan of presentations….

A little while ago I spent some time with Sliderocket, I reviewed the product, talked to them about strategy and even had a go creating a presentation for a conference I’m attending in a couple of months. I think I’ve given it a fairly good try, so now it’s time to front up and articulate where I see presentations heading.

Most web presentation offerings articulate their value proposition based on a couple of differentiators from the incumbents (namely Powerpoint and Keynote). Those differentiators are;

  • The ability to automatically update presentations in a digital-asset-management type style
  • The ability to run real time analytics through a presentation, and to react to that data (tailor an offering depending on the slides a viewer has looked at the most for example)

While I understand the concepts above, I can’t help but think that presentations are a little bit different. A large proportion of presentations are delivered while mobile and hence can’t rely on plentiful internet connectivity. Ah I hear you say, that’s where some sort of offline access such as Google Gears kicks in. Well yes, but unfortunately, this generally breaks the very differentiators that online presentation software vendors use to justify their existence.

When talking to a vendor recently about my own situation, needing to present to a conference where connectivity could not be guaranteed, I was told that they now offer a sort of “portable presentation format” whereby the presentation can be downloaded onto a laptop or pendrive and run as an executable file. Well sure…. but in that instance all one has done is designed a cut-down Powerpoint… without the ecosystem that surrounds the incumbents. And that’s the bind these vendors find themselves in – whether to go purely web and cut out a significant customer base who need offline, or go offline enabled but undercut their very own point of difference.

I believe there are two main branches that presentations will go moving forwards;

1) I need the bells and whistles – for those who simply must have flash animations and transitions. Powerpoint and Keynote will, for the foreseeable future, do this better than online offerings. As such people who need powerpoint, but also desire a degree of collaboration and asset management, would be best to use a service such as CentralDesktop or Box.net which enable collaboration

2) Near enough is good enough – for those who simply need to create a rough-and-ready presentation the office productivity vendors are the best bet. Zoho show (disclosure – Zoho is exclusive sponsor of CloudAve) and Google show are both fairly lightweight offerings, but they do the basics well enough for most.

So where does this leave everyone else? Well that’s a difficult question. Slideshare answers that by giving presentation creation a miss and just working on providing a location for user generated content. Sliderocket, to its credit, is trying to build an ecosystem where by content creators can engage creatives to product professional presentations. Box and CentralDesktop concentrate on the collaboration aspects and leave other to create the shows.

Is the market place big enough for all of them? In my view no – especially when Microsoft Office 2010 looks like it will have at least a modicum of online ability. 2010 will be an interesting year for some of the players on this particular stage.


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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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