Apple’s official announcement that its much anticipated “App Store” will “open” for business on January 6 brings with it much excitement in various Apple camps. These include of course developers themselves, many of whom will be hoping a bonanza awaits them, much like those who got in early for the iPhone apps store achieved.
The tech press, both mainstream and within the blogosphere, will also be watching closely, anticipating whether this is another Apple-led charge into a new retailing paradigm. No one who has watched the success of Apple’s bricks-and-mortar retailing environment will be quick to dismiss this next development in Apple’s reaching out to both developer and consumer alike.
But there’s another group, into which I place myself fair and square, who are anticipating January 6’s developments. I am writing of presenters who use slideware to aid their efforts to persuade their audiences of their sincerity and wisdom of their messages. How so?
Well, if rumours which have been circulating for several months hold to be true, we can expect Apple to showcase its own “apps” on opening day of the App Store.
In its own promotional material on its webpage, we see iWork 11 components used as examples of how the app store may appear. It shows each component in the current iWork – Keynote, Pages, and Numbers – for individual sale, as well as several fictitious apps.
As I have written elsewhere on this blog, Keynote is due for a major update. It’s truly been a long time to ask its adherents to wait patiently. This has been difficult to do as we watch Keynote’s advantages whittled away with excellent progress by the Microsoft Office team, both Mac and Windows. The Mac version looks suspiciously like Keynote, which is a form of compliment I suppose.
Its interface is still a dog’s breakfast however, and Microsoft’s engineers have yet to duplicate some of Keynote’s now very recognisable transitions and text builds, both in terms of their variations and smoothness.
The Keynote team have also been on the receiving end of much wished-for lists of improvements these past almost two years since Keynote 09 was released. For myself, rather than necessarily asking for specific components to be included, such as better sound management, I directly asked the team to consider how presentations themselves are undergoing changes.
When I spoke with them and gave a brief presentation, I wanted them to understand that future audiences would challenge old-style presenters (think all those text-driven, bullet-sodden Powerpoint slides you have come to dread) with demands for better recognition of audience needs:
1. how to get and keep audiences engaged;
2. how to draw out the essential message on a complex slide (using callouts);
3. how to better tell a visual story to support the spoken one such that the speaker remains the centre of the audience’s attention, until they willingly give it over to the slide’s content;
4. how to help presenters grab audience attention when there are so many distractions drawing attention away.
I tried to show the team how I think about achieving these presentation goals using the available tools in Keynote 09 in the hope it would stimulate their creative juices while they likely worked on the next version; and in the meantime kept sending examples of movie and television effects I saw which truly engaged me and which I wanted to see in the next Keynote, especially I struggled to duplicate the effects myself.
For instance, I would really like to see Keynote include the following effects I recorded at the Apple Store Chadstone, below, if we’re to get new effects.
In general, what I implored the team to not do was merely add more transitions and builds (although the effects above would be welcome), but move Keynote to another level of presentation style and capability.
In terms of the latter, there have been rumours of some kind of integration with the current AppleTV. I purchased one of these a few months ago, and have enjoyed using it with my iPad controlling it, rather than the slim remote it’s packaged with.
The thinking has been that Keynote presentations could be wireless transmitted through AppleTV to a data projector. Some kind of wireless connection would be welcome for presenters. As it is, I always take with me a 15 metre VGA-VGA cable and a connector so that I can position myself in the room where I choose to be, rather than stuck behind a lecturn where I am also confined by the connection to the data projector.
The problem currently is that AppleTV is HDMI-based, and very few data projectors use this connectivity currently. This will grow quickly in the next year, but for now VGA or RCA remains the predictable standard. I had hoped a conversion cable would help: HDMI out to RCA and VGA, but the projector (and an HD TV) I tried it with proved unsuccessful. Possibly, a firmware upgrade might allow this cable to work, but it seems un-Apple-like to go backwards or make concessions to what will inevitably be legacy connectivity methods.
Other possibilities come January 6 may include better sharing capabilities in the next Keynote. Microsoft’s Office touts exceptional online sharing and collaboration. Keynote currently is unable to share all of its glories when exporting to Powerpoint, “dumbing down” some of its most potent effects.
This is one area where those considering making the transition to the Mac – to best employ Keynote to make “unPowerpoint” presentations, if you get my drift – come unstuck when they need to share their presentations.
Hopefully, January 6 will also see some kind of beefed up iWork.com come out of beta and address these crucial shortcomings and reinforce Apple’s desire to reach further into the enterprise marketplace.
Mind you, Powerpoint is not without its problems here, with three version of Powerpoint (2010, 2007, and 2003) in common usage. I have too often seen 2007 presentations given over on USB to conference organisers, only to see the HP or Dell PCs in the conference room equipped with PPT 2003, yielding various blends of compatibility.
Moreover – and this applies to Keynote users too – those special fonts used to give your presentation some measure of “personality” will likely not be found on the PC or even the central server, and so the presentation is dumbed down and formatting and layout suffers to the point of incomprehensibility.
So all that said, we have several weeks to see if the iWork team have listened to their endusers, allowed themselves to have their creative heads, and foresee the need for presentation software to move to another level by equipping we endusers with tools to match what today’s audiences demand when they are asked to sit for an extended period of time.
I am hoping that not just have they listened, but they will delight us with unexpected gifts, which have us slapping our foreheads with, “Of course!”
We saw this two years ago with the Magic Move transition, which I hope will be improved upon. If I permit myself to list a few “hoped for” capabilities, it would include:
1. Much improved audio and video within-slide editing, including for the latter rotation, masking and perspective options.
2. Timeline – please, an Apple-like Timeline.
3. I expect to see much improved and out of the ballpark animation and 3D effects. These have been coming a long time, visible in the iOS interface. I include some variant of Coverflow, so as to allow better arrangement of objects on a slide.
4. Closer parity between Desktop and iPad versions of Keynote.
For myself, it looks like it will be a very busy three weeks between January 6 and my presentation at Macworld on January 26 as I come to grips with hoped-for updated and new features. At least it won’t be a repeat of Macworld 2009 when Keynote 09 was released the day before my two day workshop!