There’s no getting away from it. Microsoft’s PowerPoint program is nothing short of a modern marvel.
Now over 30 years old, PowerPoint has outlived not only its rivals but other perceived computing staples, like floppy disks, CD-ROMs, dial-up internet and Ask Jeeves.
In fact, the presentation software has not only evolved as the internet developed, from the text-rich information dumps of web 1.0 to the dawn of lightening-fast interconnectivity – but PowerPoint has also become a household name in its own right.
As Jay Bailey noted for the Times of Israel back in 2014, the term ‘death by PowerPoint’ returned 321,000 results from a simple Google search. Today, the same search returns closer to 100,000,000 pages, and not only that – it seems that ‘death by PowerPoint’ has become a meme in its own right.
(Despite criticisms over PowerPoint’s shortcomings, it remains a dominant force with 89% of the presentation software market share. Image: PresentationPanda)
With over 500 million PowerPoint users worldwide, there’s little doubting the dominance of Microsoft’s presentation software today. However, its widespread usage has done little to quell the common opinion that the 30-year-old program is too dull to truly engage audiences.
In 2017, Harvard University published a study that seemed to support the notion that PowerPoint has become a counterproductive tool for businesses. The findings showed that PowerPoint simply didn’t measure up to competitors when it came to ‘increasing information transfer to your target’ and ‘improving what people think of your brand.’
In the case of Harvard’s study, PowerPoint lost out to its fresh-faced counterpart Prezi, which was found to be 13% more organised, 16% more engaging, 22% more persuasive and 25% more effective.
So, are we witnessing the start of a coup in the presentations industry? Or can PowerPoint retain its crown as the reigning monarch of meeting room software for the foreseeable future? Let’s take a look at its most dynamic competitors:
(Powtoon is a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to presentations, however, the company’s modern approach to slide creation means its amassed a large following since it was formed in 2012. Image: Powtoon)
Founded in the heart Tel Aviv’s growing technological hub, Powtoon looks set to mount a challenge in drawing users away from PowerPoint with the promise of greater entertainment aesthetics.
Of all PowerPoint’s competitors, Powtoon poses a particular threat to Microsoft’s hegemony thanks to the combination of convenience and video capabilities built into the software. Video tutorials are active on Powtoon’s website pledging to teach customers how to create moving presentations in eight simple steps.
Eating into PowerPoint’s seismic audience share will be a tall order for just about any competitor in the near future, but considering that almost 70 million Powtoon presentations have already been created by its fledgeling user-base – and esteemed clientele including Coca-Cola, Pfizer, eBay, Costco and Starbucks are already on board – the future looks bright for the relative newcomers to the presentation landscape.
(Prezi is a 10-year-old endeavour based primarily in San Francisco. Image: Prezi)
Prezi was founded in 2009 as part of a Hungarian-American endeavour that saw the company set up offices in San Francisco and Budapest. Although its market share currently stands at just 3%, it automatically makes Prezi the best selling alternative to stock presentation programs like Microsoft’s PowerPoint, Google’s Slides and Apple’s Keynote.
It’s fair to say that Prezi is one of the most advanced pieces of presentation software available today. Not only has it drawn in over 100 million users, but Prezi claims that there’s a science behind why its presentations are winning more customers regularly.
The superior usability and greater potential for video-based slides means that Prezi is becoming increasingly favoured by professionals who call upon presentation software on a daily basis. HuffPost can even be quoted in saying: “university researchers find Prezi more engaging, persuasive, and effective than PowerPoint.”
For all the criticism PowerPoint has received, it’s worth remembering that it’s a Microsoft program. If there’s any company that’s capable of evolving to adapt to industry developments, Microsoft’s a safe bet.
PowerPoint has undergone a series of modest updates in a bid to keep up with the growing strengths of competitors. Whether it’s developing at a quick enough rate to ensure its customer base remains intact is still to be seen – but companies like F5 Presentations, a York-based design agency, have already given us a glimpse of the power behind the latest versions of PowerPoint.
F5 made the news in July 2019 after pushing PowerPoint to its limits in creating an ambitious Instagram job advert. The client, in this case, was Jolie Studio. After the finished piece was uploaded to the social network, Jolie Studio representative Franky Roussell said: “We were sceptical at first but were absolutely blown away with the result. We’re all extremely happy with the video which is now proudly sitting on our Instagram page and generating enquiries. I just can’t believe that is PowerPoint.”
There have been 16 major iterations of PowerPoint in its extensive lifecycle, which goes some way in illustrating the level of evolution the software has been experiencing over the past thirty years. While much has been made of ‘Death by PowerPoint,’ a tongue-in-cheek BBC article goes some way in pointing the finger at poor practice from users as the primary reason why the software’s reputation for bland slides has been allowed to manifest. The World Wide Web is also awash with engaging templates for .ppt presentations with the rise of multiple platforms selling pre-made layouts.
Microsoft’s presentational juggernaut looks set to continue its reign as the dominant source of presentations worldwide for a little longer at least, but developers will no doubt be watching their back more so than at any other stage of their software’s lifecycle. The melting pots of Tel Aviv and San Francisco have already produced highly capable rivals, and it might not take much more innovation before PowerPoint’s monopoly begins to slide.