Can Google kill PowerPoint?

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Oct. 30 2007 7:52 AM

Can Google Kill PowerPoint?

And the winner of our presentation deathmatch is ...

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Another missing feature: animation. PowerPoint pros are used to creating slides that gradually reveal successive lines of text, bars in a chart, or components of a complex matrix, to let viewers follow step by step. Raffy says animation is also the best way to show changes to a chart over time. You can hack around this deficiency in Google Preso by creating a series of slides, each one another step forward from the previous one. But that wouldn't be good enough for Al Gore. The climbing-temperature and flooding-map animations that drove An Inconvenient Truth's trailer? Impossible to achieve with Google.

Raffy and Mark, who had only a couple of days to prepare their presentation, were forced to abandon Google Preso because of the above roadblocks. But they did praise its one clear advantage over Microsoft. Multiple people can edit the same slide at the same time, from different computers. Raffy, Mark, and their micromanaging boss were able to gang-edit their preso from three separate desks rather than having to pass a single copy around to one editor at a time. Google's servers detect who's editing what line of text, so if Mark rewrites the line Raffy's working on, he gets a pop-up "Conflict Notification" when he tries to save his change. Three-on-one editing let the team crank out a single presentation in record time. It just didn't come close to matching the standard PowerPoint has set for 20 years.

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I don't think Google will catch up with PowerPoint. The company's strength is in reinventing applications rather than beating competitors on features. Google's one advantage, feature-wise, might be short-lived: A Microsoft spokesman told me the company will launch its own free collaboration service in December. It will let up to 15 people group-edit a PowerPoint preso.

Google Preso rocks for easy, no-money-down collaboration, but its visually clumsy slides won't win you a Nobel Prize or help you close a million-dollar deal. For that, the winning app is actually ... Apple's Keynote. The Splunkers now use it. They say Keynote allows them finer control than PowerPoint over layout, fonts, colors, animation, and overall wow factor in front of tough audiences. Google Preso comes in a distant third. Instead of being a PowerPoint killer, it's a PowerPoint commercial—a half-baked app that shows how powerful Microsoft's program really is. To prove it, I've whipped up a PowerPoint preso that recaps the differences. Any questions? 

Special thanks to Mark Bagley and Raffael Marty of Splunk.

Paul Boutin is a writer living in San Francisco.