Why Apple needs to strike hard and fast to make Keynote the dominant presentation software in colleges and other institutes of education – it can be done in the next five years despite Powerpoint’s undeserved current dominance.

In my last several posts, I’ve asked you to observe with me a changing landscape for presentations, in particular how the nature of audiences is forcing a shift towards visually-rich media.

Some of the research I have cited argues that a new generation is coming through who have grown up with the internet, especially broadband, which can deliver media in different ways than it was for their parents for whom dialup was the standard, as was your traditional text- and bullet-point driven Powerpoint stacks in college and the boardroom.

Young people coming through the ranks have grown up creating their own media, using devices like Apple’s iMovie and publishing it on YouTube and Facebook for friends and strangers to share.

Other social media like Slideshare have allowed academics and authors to upload their presentations and while many old-fashioned slide stacks still abound, it’s clear that they simply won’t catch the attention of younger viewers.

We are also seeing more and more mainstream media articles challenging Powerpoint’s dominance as the major channel for delivering knowledge and blogs such as mine and Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen asking for a rethink of the evidence behind engaging and persuasive message delivery.

While I like this blog to be as useful to a Powerpoint user as it is to an Apple Keynote user, I want to suggest that Apple is now primed to take a leadership position in helping the knowledge sharing process with a much more active and aggressive promotion of Keynote to an audience who is primed to receive and act on this message: College students and staff.

Recent surveys suggest the Macintosh, the only platform Keynote runs on, is making serious inroads as the platform of choice for many students and faculty.

In March, 2008, Appleinsider published the following:

Apple’s rapidly rising mindshare amongst current generation college students is setting the company up for an “aging phenomenon” that will spur further market share and revenue growth as those students enter the work force, investment bank Morgan Stanley said Wednesday.

A recent higher-education survey cited by analyst Katy Huberty reveals that roughly 40 percent of college students say their next computer purchase will be a Mac, well ahead of Apple’s current 15 percent market share in the demographic.

John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog last week offered a more recent statistical analysis:

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, quoting survey results from Student Monitor:

“Among those who planned to purchase a new computer, 87% planned to buy a laptop. And among those students 47% planned to buy a Mac.”

Among student laptop owners, Apple has the highest share, at 27 percent. These numbers are short of the claim by analyst Trip Chowdhry that “70% of incoming University freshman students are coming with Macs”, but they’re still remarkable, and the trend is very strong in Apple’s favor.

At one time, Apple bundled its iWork office suite on all laptops as fully-operational demo software, which was operational for 30 days before it require the purchase online of a serial number.

It’s time for Apple to give serious thought to returning to this bundling for students. It’s also time for Apple’s online tutorials about iWork to shift to how academics can use Keynote especially in the sciences with its need often for special formulas, equations and graphs.

It’s clear to me also that the boardroom is still slavishly devoted to Powerpoint. But the trojan horse here will be those graduates who have used Apple’s laptops all their college lives, who have become au fait with Keynote as their preferred choice of multimedia knowledge sharing tool – even in MBA courses – and who will soon be entering junior then senior levels of management. It might take five years, but the statistics I’ve cited suggest a change is already underway, and it’s there for Apple to capitalise on.

Despite great improvements in the current and forthcoming versions of Powerpoint (much of it emulating or playing catchup to Keynote), there is still a huge legacy of basically awful Powerpoint for these new versions to overcome. Keynote users, in my observations, have rarely had this allegiance to old style, no evidence for it, styles of presenting now so much out of favour by those who make a study of knowledge transfer. But it’s a long way to go.

With the expected uptake of the iPad in academia and business, with its specialised Keynote app and maybe a new desktop version of Keynote, and you have a prefect storm of change brewing.

I’m guessing the next version of Keynote is in the oven almost cooked, just waiting for the sprinkles to be added before its release. Hopefully it will leapfrog Powerpoint 2010 (Windows) and 2011 (Mac). But what needs to be done also by Apple is to really ramp up its thrust into these important territories where significant change is occurring for which Keynote with its media rich properties is tailor made and a much better fit than default Powerpoint, even in its latest incarnations.

I’m hoping Apple can return its gaze for the next little while to the desktop/laptop application market place, and drive home the platform’s advances and advantages. I want Apple to especially offer a means for those in academia, student, teacher and researcher alike, to learn new ways of knowledge transfer in a manner that better suits the evidence base for how humans learn.

My visits to Apple HQ in Cupertino as well as iWork teams in Pittsburgh where I presented emphasised this shift; I am truly hopeful my message was received and applied in the next imminent version of Keynote, and beyond.

UPDATE: Even Bill Gates says so, sort of…

Gates acknowledged in a recent talk how the world of online education may well surpass traditional education in the next five years. Even more reason to get with the program of improving academic instructional training with appropriate tools and methods. Here is Engadget’s reporting:

Bill Gates just might be the world’s most famous college dropout (sorry, Kanye), but lest you think he’s changed his mind about the educational establishment, he’s got a few words of reassurance for you. As the closing speaker of the Techonomy 2010 conference, Bill dished out his vision of how learning will evolve over the next few years, stating his belief that no single university will be able to match the internet when it comes to providing the learning resources a student needs. Describing traditional studies as “place-based” and inefficient, he forecasts that university education will become five times less important within five years, with online lecture sources picking up the reins of enlightening our youth

15 responses to “Why Apple needs to strike hard and fast to make Keynote the dominant presentation software in colleges and other institutes of education – it can be done in the next five years despite Powerpoint’s undeserved current dominance.

  1. Lee,

    I agree with your comments. I wish Apple would hurry up and release a new version of Keynote for my laptop and also an updated version for the iPad.

  2. From a speaker’s point of view, should it really matter which software is used? If you stick to one image or video per slide and avoid gimmicks, don’t they do the same thing?

    • If this were the case TJ, I and numerous others wouldn’t bemoan the current state of presenting. Download any presentation from the web using any search term for any topic your heart desires and add ppt to the keyword search. You’ll see why 95% of the academic slides breach human learning research findings. Add .gov and .mil and the rate leaps to 99%. I’m sorry, there is a legacy of poor Powerpoint, and yes, the blame can be sheeted home to the default style of header, sub-header and bullet point that is on the first screens you see when you open Powerpoint in deference to simply showing a blank screen (as in earlier Powerpoint versions). Keynote can be coerced into doing the same, but it’s rare you see it. We need to figure it why that is the case. Speak to most Keynote users and you’ll hear them say, as I hear, that the software’s ability to elicit creative and visually rich media solutions exceeds that of Powerpoint.

      All that may change with the new versions of Powerpoint, as I’ve suggested, due to its improved media capabilities which encourages a shift away from all-text slides. Previous versions, like 2003 and 2007, still very much in vogue, were positively discouraging of the use of media other then text with their separate folders for media and poor slide integration, weak transitions and and unimaginative overused backgrounds.

      Answer: There is still something to be said for how different applications elicit different means of going about seemingly the same task.

  3. What’s really needed is for Keynote to make slideshows that run on a mac without requiring Keynote to be installed / registered on that machine.

    I’m a student and our lecture theatres have dual booting mac minis built into the lecterns, but if I want to give a presentation, I have to use Powerpoint (mac or windows), because the school isn’t going to pay to register Keynote (which is on the machines, but has expired its demo period) when they’ve already got site licences for MS Office.

    Keynote desperately needs some sort of self contained presentation app output the way Director could, or a way to use the Finder’s slideshow function to get the full Keynote experience, without launching the app itself.

    Optionally, an unregistered Keynote app should be able to play and edit documents that were created with a registered copy.

    • Since Keynote’s introduction in 2003 it has never had a reader app, while Powerpoint for Windows has always had a viewer app. When I visited Melbourne university last week I saw a mac mini setup running windows xp and powerpoint in all its glory.

      Offering universities a keynote reader is only a half and incomplete step for what I’m asking for, and acknowledges the dominance of PowerPoint as a permanent thing. I don’t think that’s a good option at all. What’s better is staff and students demanding a better way to teach and learn which better matches lecturers’ teaching styles.

      I am due offer a Melbourne university department training in presentation skills next month, and this is where then change begins. It really requires Apple Australia to step up to then plate and help facilitate better presentation training. The training I’ve seen in universities has been about how to use PowerPoint and very little on the fundamentals of presentation upskilling.

      • Isn’t any demo version of Keynote a player app once the demo period expires? I’m sure that used to be the case. Free Player App.

  4. There’s no way Keynote can dominate. There’s no Windows version and there’s already a strong contingent using PowerPoint on Windows and Mac. Most of us who do use presentation software are not geeks and see no reason to switch presentation software when what’s available works.

    The other point I want to make is that in many disciplines, including mine, presentation software is really not all that important of an educational tool. The tools that are much more important are learning how to lecture, give talks, and engage students with the material and create discussion. These are all personal skills and while technology can play a role, it often occupies an extremely small one. The skill comes from personal mastery and not some easy, quick, external solution like technology.

    Finally, Bill Gates is a poor predictor of trends. As a college lecturer, I see no great rise in online education overall. Technologists often seem to think technology is the answer to problems and issues and often erases the human who is part of the equation. This tendency of the erasure of the human is what makes so many technologist predictions fail.

    • When you say there’s no need to change because it works, my question to you is, “For whom?” For the presenter, sure – stay with what you know best, even though someone moving from PPT 2003 to PPT 2010 in Windows has a huge amount of new learning to do. If it’s for the audience, then my argument throughout this blog, and particularly the last few entries, is the way most people in academia employ PPT will sooner or later not serve a new generation coming through. I’m marshalling evidence for that change on the blog, and I think it would be short sighted to believe in a permanent dominance of Windows as more efforts move to the cloud and away from the desktop OS.

  5. What they need to address is feature parity between the Mac and iPad versions of Keynote but MORE importantly proper importing of PPT files. Regardless of what we may wish for, Powerpoint is still dominant and Keynote (on both platforms) falls pretty far short of the mark for making it usable when trying to deal with PPT files. I feel that this needs to be addressed in order for Keynote to take over. There will be many people trying to import PPT files and their takeaway will be that “it just doesn’t work well”.

    My niece will be taking nursing in September. I have been researching what software systems the college uses and whether or not an iPad can handle the job. While their use of MS Outlook can be handled via Safari, and while Blackboard has what appears to be a great app for iOS devices, the fact that teachers use Powerpoint for their distributed files pretty much strikes the iPad off the list. We surely have all seen how poorly Keynote/iPad imports PPT, I have read issues with the other mobile office suites available for the iPad, so we’ll probably be getting her a MacBook and MS Office instead.

  6. I like what you say here, Les.

    Apple’s Keynote, like all it’s other programs, is much more intuitive than PP.

    However, al the added bells and whistles often take away form the fact that presentations should be clean and simple.

    Easily integrating those simple, clean new technologies is where Apple and Keynote will thrive.

    Thanks for the Post!

  7. Keynote makes it much easier to quickly produce very good looking presentations. I’m speaking as someone who is quite fluent with both Keynote and Powerpoint.

    I think the idea of a Keynote reader is a good one, but “export Keynote to PDF” works superbly (at least if you are not into animated transitions), and it is an option people should consider more often.

    • Yes, I suspect many many people feel disinclined to use KN->PDF for the loss of KN’s builds and animations for which they may spend considerable time and creative energy. I do encourage printing to PDF so as to keep the resultant numbered slide sheets by your side so as to quickly aid going forward or back in a long slide stack.

  8. John C. Randolph

    It seems to me that rather than a standalone Keynote reader app, Apple would do better to put an HTML 5 export option into Keynote. That way, you could play presentations back with any standards-compliant browser, and Apple doesn’t take on the burden of one more app to support on Windows.


    • @John C.
      Export to HTML5 would be a great add to any design type of application. That’s a pretty big ask atm imho. HTML5 is a moving target at present. Probably will happen eventually . Any way KN gets an export that is not a QT rendering is a big improvement.

      Basically HTML5 is the new Flash. RIP Flash (not trying to start a flame war, I used to think Flash was great for many client tasks).

  9. Willy Maassen

    Keynote is Top 1 for me.
    But when it comes to embedding and use it in your site it’s like in the middle ages.
    There is always something missing. Fonts, transitions, animations.
    The hyperlinks are ok on my iMac but they fail on my iPad.

    I’m praying for an update very soon. I hope yesterday.
    I really love Keynote

    Willy Maassen/Guitar teacher/Netherlands

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