Microsoft is working on technology that makes linear, by-the-numbers presentations a thing of the past.
As countless office workers can attest, PowerPoint, while useful for structuring meetings and illustrating complex issues, is predominantly an on-rails affair. Interactivity and deviations from the slide deck aren't part of the deal, in general.
Microsoft is readying a free PowerPoint add-on called Office Mix, currently available as an invite-only preview, that turns rigid and inflexible presentations into engaging and shareable experiences. The product's knowledge base indicates that the company is targeting the educational market with the new technology, at least to start.
"Office Mix allows you to turn your PowerPoints into interactive online lessons or presentations," states a knowledge base entry. Once installed, the add-on enables users "to record audio, video and handwriting, and insert interactive elements like quizzes and CK12 exercises."
Like a video, Office Mixes feature play, pause and rewind buttons. "What takes it a step further and makes Office Mix unique are the interactive elements," said Microsoft, distinguishing the tech from passive viewing experiences.
A capture tool allows users to record their screens. After completing a presentation and clicking the "Create Mix" option, Microsoft turns "it into an interactive document complete with analytics" and uploads it to cloud.
"From there, just share the link, and your students can watch it on just about any device with a Web browser," added Microsoft. Teachers can then track their students' progress online, see who watched the presentation and check quiz results.
In keeping with Microsoft's newfound multi-platform approach to mobile devices, the company stated that Office Mix presentations can be viewed on iPads, Android tablets and Windows slates with the "interactive experience" intact.
Of late, the Redmond, Wash.-based software and cloud services provider has moved to embrace rival mobile platforms. On March 27, Microsoft launched the long-awaited Office for iPad suite of apps during a press event headlined by CEO Satya Nadella in San Francisco. The company used the occasion to jointly launch a new product called Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), a mobile-device management (MDM) and security solution that supports mobile devices that run Apple iOS, Google Android, and of course, Windows.
Smartphone users are in for a more traditional PowerPoint experience with Office Mix. "On Windows Phone, iPhone and Android smartphones, we support limited playback which includes just the non-interactive content from the MIX," stated Microsoft.
Office Mix is free, but requires Office 2013, which is included in Office 365 subscriptions. Microsoft recommends running Office Mix on a 2GHz or faster Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 PC with .Net 4.5. "Office Mix works best though with touch-screen PCs with a webcam. This allows you to capture video of yourself presenting and allows you to write on the screen like you might a whiteboard," added the company.