Microsoft PowerPoint Challenged By Google And TransMedia

After months of internal testing, the companies are ready to introduce online presentation tools: Google's Docs and Glide Presenter.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

September 14, 2007

3 Min Read

Microsoft PowerPoint has two new competitors.

On Monday evening, Google plans to launch its online presentation application, referred to internally as Presently, and TransMedia, the startup behind the Glide media sharing and storage service, said it will introduce its improved recipe for online presentations in the form of Glide Presenter 2.0.

In the near term, Microsoft PowerPoint isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's arguable that the presentation apps from Google and TransMedia only add to PowerPoint's value since it's all about collaboration.

Google Docs

Google's new presentation software completes Google Office, were the company to refer thus to its online productivity apps. In fact, the suite, previously referred to as Google Docs & Spreadsheets, is now called simply Google Docs. It consists of an online word processing application, an online spreadsheet application and, now, an online presentation application.

"Our policy is launch early and launch often and get the product into consumers' hands," said Google product manager Kenneth Norton.

At the Web 2.0 Expo in April, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that Google Docs would soon offer a presentation tool. After months of internal testing, Google's employees are satisfied that the company's presentation software is ready, said Norton.

That's not to say it's complete. As with its other applications, Google intends to add additional features, like customization for mobile screens and the ability to integrate files stored on remote servers. But what's available now is impressive.

Google's presentation software makes no pretense to challenge PowerPoint feature for feature, even if it will import PowerPoint files. Rather it has been designed to help groups collaborate.

"The friction we're trying to reduce isn't on the desktop side," said Norton. "It's when the document starts to involve other people."

Toward that end, Google has made inviting people to view a presentation and making the presentation exceedingly easy. Its presentation software is integrated with Gmail and Google Calendar, and it includes a group chat function based on Google Talk (but without the component that broadcasts presence information).

Google's approach to presentations is uniquely democratic. The software allows any group member to follow the presenter or to become the presenter with a single click. This obviously limits its use to groups of friends or non-hostile coworkers.

Glide Presenter 2.0

TransMedia's Glide Presenter 2.0 outshines Google's offering in many ways. Though not quite as responsive (all that Google data center infrastructure does count for something) or visually pleasing from a user-interface standpoint as Google's presentation tool, Glide Presenter 2.0 has been designed to work both on the Web and on a wide array of mobile phones, including Apple's iPhone.

Glide Presenter 2.0 can play video and music files in a presentation. Google's presentation software can't do that yet. Glide Presenter 2.0 also allows you to create your own themes, something Google has planned but hasn't implemented. Both presentation programs track revisions and allow users to easily revert to a previously saved version.

Like the application formerly known as Presently, Glide Presenter 2.0 is all about collaboration. "Collaboration is a huge, huge focus of this," explained Donald Leka, TransMedia's CEO.

Glide's transcoding engine makes it easy to stream large media files that have been uploaded to Glide's servers. As a consequence, Glide's presentations can show audio and video on bandwidth-constrained mobile devices without first requiring the viewer to download massive files. "Most presentations are less than 1 Mbyte no matter how much media you have integrated into them," said Leka.

Glide Presenter 2.0 will probably appeal to businesses even more than Google's offering because of Glide's sophisticated rights management support. Users can control the number of times presentations can be viewed, how many times they can be downloaded, and set a variety of other editing and access rights.

"It probably is the most finely grained set of rights that exists out there right now," said Leka.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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