Author: Geetesh Bajaj
Look into the world of presentations and youll find that there is a sort of evolution taking place. Not all presentations are shown in conference rooms or board meetings any more. In fact, you dont have to be physically present in a single geographic location to view presentations. Theres more it is now possible to view the same presentation in different time zones at different times and you are encouraged to collaborate in either real-time or otherwise. Enter the new world of online rich media!
Online rich media as we know it today has taken around five years to evolve it started with converting PowerPoint presentations to HTML so that they could be viewed online. HTML output though was certainly not rich, although DHTML output found in later versions of PowerPoint (such as PowerPoint 2002 that was released late 2001) did elevate the output to some extent. It was largely left to third-party providers to contribute much to the online rich media brigade as we see it today rather than Microsoft themselves.
One of the most influencing factors was perhaps Macromedias opening up of the Flash format. Their OpenFlash initiative opened the floodgates that allowed many providers to output PowerPoint content to Flash. Among the earliest developers of such a product were the people at Presedia, who created Presedia Producer, a server based PowerPoint to online rich media converter. Around a year ago, Macromedia acquired Presedia and released the product under a new name Macromedia Breeze. Somewhere else, a company called Wanadu again used the Flash output route to create their own PowerPoint to online rich media converter they named it iCreate. In time, Wanadu was acquired by Latitude, best known for their MeetingPlace web conferencing product. iCreate provided so much synergy to their existing products a few months and one revamp later, iCreate was released as a version 2 product. iCreate 2 functions both as a server and desktop tool.
New York based Articulate developed their own technology to output PowerPoint to Flash based online rich media they also licensed their product to eHelp Corporation, who released their online rich media product as RoboPresenter. Ironically, eHelp was acquired by Macromedia who now own both the Breeze and RoboPresenter products. Meanwhile, Articulate released their product in the form of Articulate Presenter.
PresentationPro, a longtime vendor of presentation templates also joined the online rich media bandwagon with their PowerPRESENTER product they later renamed it to PowerCONVERTER. PowerCONVERTER is a much more affordable product than Breeze, iCreate, Articulate or RoboPresenter and it does most of what the other products do. However, it is still a desktop application rather than an enterprise level product.
All this while, Microsoft did not keep quiet. They released their own online rich media product in the form of a free add-in for PowerPoint 2002 they called it Producer. Predictably, Microsofts offering did not use Flash rather it used Microsofts own Windows Media technology to do the conversion from PowerPoint. Unfortunately, Microsofts tool involved a long learning curve. A company from Virginia called Anystream offered an alternative in the form of Agility Presenter this product created output that Producer was meant to create. In fact, Agility even used the same file format as Producer to save its settings! The release of PowerPoint 2003 heralded a new compatible version of Producer. Producer 2003 continues to be a free product and has matured its also easier to use and has tons of new features. Meanwhile, Anystream rechristened Agility to Apreso and coincided that with an online media hosting service of the same name.
All the while, when companies were creating products that made online rich media a snap to attain with convenient Flash and Windows Media output, a company in Canada decided to do things differently. Impatica, the name of both the product and the company is an online rich media converter that uses Java to output converted content from PowerPoint. Amazingly, Impatica s output is among the most faithful to the original PowerPoint source so much so that it also incorporated sound tracks and videos contained within the original PowerPoint presentation. Impatica also compresses output well and everything can be viewed on any browser thats Java compatible. Imapticas sharing and collaborating tool that builds upon the original product is called OnCue.
Theres much more happening in the online rich media marketplace companies introduce new products, they get acquired or merged or they just decide to change names. And new offerings continue to emerge unfailingly. Already, I m looking at a product called Avitage that is also a presentation cataloging tool in addition to being an online rich media converter.
In the coming months, many of these products would have new versions and feature lists extensive enough to justify themselves. And somewhere in between, PowerPoint will continue to reign as the source that provides all the content that online rich media needs.
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