Microsoft is giving the presentation remote a big upgrade.
Microsoft Research has teamed with the Office engineering group to develop an app that allows Windows Phone 8 users to control presentations using their handsets. Rather than just allow presenters to advance PowerPoint slides, the free app, called Office Remote, unlocks more functionality than what is provided by traditional remotes, allowing for more freeform and interactive experiences.
The app also frees hosts from the confines of a podium, stage or their laptops, according to Office Group Program Manager Bert Van Hoof. "The app lets you control Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from across the room so you can walk around freely during presentations," he said in an Inside Microsoft Research blog post.
Office Remote runs on Windows Phone 8 devices and requires a Bluetooth-compatible PC, a downloadable desktop add-in and a non-RT version of Office 2013 to work. With all the pieces in place, users can explore Office docs—PowerPoint, Excel and Word specifically—at meetings or before a crowd. Van Hoof boasted that "all you need for a flawless presentation is to open the Office document you want to project, pick up your phone, and begin your pitch."
Compared to traditional clickers, Office Remote provides a richer, more flexible experience. Van Hoof said that with the app, "you can start your PowerPoint presentation, advance the slides, see your speaker notes, and control an on-screen laser pointer with a touch of your finger—all from your phone."
Large on-screen buttons point the way forward (and back) during PowerPoint presentations, while thumbnails provide one-touch access to other slides in the deck. The app also displays speaker cues, a timer and a progress indicator to help a user manage a presentation's delivery.
In Excel, gesture-based controls allow meeting organizers to explore data by swiping between sheets and jumping between named object. Office Remote can be used to zoom in; navigate rows and columns; and use Slicers, PivotTables and Filters. Word users can jump to headings and comments, and zoom in and nudge the screen up or down, line by line or wholesale.
Increasingly, Office has been venturing beyond the desktop and making the move to mobile devices.
Nokia's new Lumia 1520 smartphone has Office built-in. The device features a stunning screen, powerful processor, and the ability for users to view, edit and sync Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the go.
Microsoft is also embracing rival mobile operating systems, but with a catch.
The software giant announced the long-awaited release of Office Mobile for the iPhone on June 16. The app is free, but only available to Office 365 subscribers. A month later, Office Mobile for Android smartphones was published to Google Play under the same licensing scheme.