Whither Apple’s Keynote ’11 – thoughts on its much anticipated but very overdue appearance. Is it the fault of the iPad?

Another Apple keynote has come and gone (WWDC 2011) and another opportunity to reveal Apple’s updated Keynote has also come and gone.


Like so many others who’ve delighted in Keynote’s ability to help us develop persuasive and engaging slide presentations and other visual delights, I look forward to each public display of Keynote by Apple senior executives to gather intelligence on new features and guess at possible release dates.

Since its last version update in 2009, Keynote has seen updates to text and build animations but no new transitions or special effects displayed in Apple keynotes. Those text and build updates, such as the drop and dust (demoed at WWDC, below) build have yet to be included in the official current version.

Apple VP iOS, Scott Forstall demoes drop and dust build-in

In my mind, Keynote 11 (or KN6 if you prefer) is pretty well cooked. I don’t mean toast, but cooked in the sense that it no longer needs baking in the oven to convert its essential ingredients into a tasty whole.

In the half dozen or so Apple keynotes since January 2009 (e.g. iPad 1 and 2, WWDC ’10 and ’11, and special Back to the Mac events) we’ve seen the same Keynote on display. Or at least no new effects or features have been sighted.

In the meantime, Keynote on the iPad is now at 1.4, meaning there have been five versions since its release in April, 2010 when the iPad 1 came to market. More a playtoy than a real presentation tool when first released, it’s clear the iWork team has been busy bringing Keynote up to speed such that it can stand alone as a presentation creation tool as well as the presenter app itself.

Contrary to what many think, Apple’s iWork team is quite small in number, dispersed around the US mainland rather than based entirely out of Cupertino. Apple does not have unlimited resources to throw at Keynote, and what they have seems to have been mustered to make sure Keynote on the iPad is the real tool it’s turning out to be, collecting features and capabilities aiming for, but not yet achieving parity with Keynote on the desktop.

Frankly, I don’t think Apple’s in any great hurry to do this, despite Keynote’s afficionados hoping for it. I think Keynote for iPad will develop along its own course, taking advantage of the iPad’s special and unique capabilities. Last week, I witnessed students at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School using Keynote on the iPad for their projects having not touched the desktop version at all. They don’t see weaknesses as we old hands at Keynote do, only possibilities.

In many ways, these students resemble those of us who began with Keynote 1.0 in 2003, when Powerpoint 97  or 2000 was the only show in town. Keynote fell way short of Powerpoint’s feature set at the time, yet those of us who persisted with it knowing it possessed special qualities, found ways to work around its shortcomings. We relished each update allowing us to push past boundaries and eventually create a new paradigm for presenting, such that anytime you witness a Keynote now, you know you’re not witnessing a Powerpoint slide show.

(Mind you, even in Keynote 1.0 we had superior file importing especially movies, transparency effects, rotations, and of course superior and cinema-like builds and transitions. Only now in Powerpoint 2011 do we see Presenter mode actively promoted, although I hardly ever meet Powerpoint users who even know it exists).

This is how these high school students are using Keynote on the iPad. Pushing it without concern for its limitations, not knowing that it is less featured compared to the desktop version.

But then again if you witness any  of Steve Jobs’ recent keynotes, almost every build and animation he has asked desktop Keynote to perform can be done on the iPad too. None of Jobs keynotes in recent memory have really pushed Keynote to the limit such that I sit back and ask “Just how did he do that?” something I get frequently from even experienced Keynote users at my Presentation Magic workshops at Macworld and elsewhere.

Given that Keynote sprang from Jobs’ head originally, and he likely remains its primary beta tester (I’m guessing after OS X, iOS, Mail and iChat, Keynote might be his most used app on a daily basis), there is no hurry or demand to increase its feature set.

That has to come from the iWork team itself taking their ideas to Jobs to sign off on as both worthwhile, and not decreasing its stability. What other app do you see that gives you the option of including “obsolete” animations (below)?

Obsolete Animations? It's your choice...

My guess is that what gets Jobs’ approval are those additions which enable more things to be done with one click; allow Keynote to be more cinematic in its abilities, and now with the importance to Apple’s future of the cloud (as in iCloud) lend themselves to sharing between versions, locations and device.

Something that can only be done on one device is less likely to get a guernsey in future editions than features which can be included across the board.

At the moment, Keynote on the iPad seems to be driving the show, with Apple’s original uncertainty about its tablet’s success now replaced by confidence it’s on to something big, a part of which we witnessed being laid out (or at least its beginning) at last week’s WWDC keynote.

I still keep peppering away at my contact within iWork with feature requests and examples I have created in Keynote (albeit laboriously) as well as features I’ve witnessed in other media (eg., text effects in cinema, visual effects in television current affairs) but that contact is soon to leave Apple and I’m hoping I get a chance to continue my liaison with other members.

For now, we wait. Those features I have most asserted are needed to take Keynote up a notch are those I have labelled as call outs: features which kill the laser pointer and then allow presenters to bring audience attention to aspects of their slides where the essential learning takes place, using animations, colours, focus, and movement subtly.

To conclude, we know another version of Keynote is out there – we’ve seen some of its capabilities in each of Apple’s keynotes for the past two years. With iCloud, iOS and Lion 10.7 just around the corner, one can only hope that their release into the wild unleashes a new version of Keynote which takes advantage of all three elements shown at WWDC 2011 and helps raise presentation skills to a new level.

Getting a new version of Keynote in time for the new school year (in the northern hemisphere) and final presentations in the current school year in the southern hemisphere, would put the icing on the Lion cake.

7 responses to “Whither Apple’s Keynote ’11 – thoughts on its much anticipated but very overdue appearance. Is it the fault of the iPad?

  1. With Front Row gone, there goes another nice presentation tool whereby you could have video loaded into iTunes and switch back and forth between your presentation and the video examples. I DO like what I’m seeing in the iPad version, though, just wish I could connect the iPad remotely to the iPhone without a WiFi connection. Oh, AND the fact that the composition area is centered instead of pinned to the upper left, that’s the big feature in iPad Keynote that I’d LOVE to see on the desktop version.

  2. @Keynote Ken: If you have an iPad and AppleTV you can shift to videos on the iPad in case you haven’t embedded videos in your desktop Keynote. Prediction: It won’t be long before Keynote on any platform plays through AirPlay onto whatever output you desire, and wirelessly too.

  3. Hey Les
    I think the new iWork will be released with Lion to take advantage of its new features like autosave.
    This also gives them further news at the time otherwise there’ll be less impact if we know everything already. A little spice.
    iPad versions of iWork are fine for delivery and tweaking but you really need the OSX version to create and edit other’s work; eg adding comments to students’ papers,
    PS The APS has no idea about social media so aren’t going to educate anyone about it.

    • Yes, that’s my reading of it – have Lion downloadable at the App store (4GB!) as well as iWork and maybe even iLife updates. In fact with Lion, a whole swag of updated Apple software to take advantage of the troika of Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud.

      As for the APS and social media, I’ve submitted three workshops for the annual conference in Canberra early October, all featuring some aspect of technology, including social media. Let’s see how interested they really are in these devloments

  4. What is APS in the context of Apple’s Keynote application?

    • APS = Australian Psychological Society – the notion that scientific organisations need to radically overhaul how they organise conferences and training around Powerpoint, neglecting Keynote and clueless about social media.

  5. Im grateful for the weblog article.Thanks Again. Want more.

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