Presenter, Inc.’s iPresentation Suite v3.0 Beta

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INTRODUCTION

    The common denominator

with all of the PowerPoint solutions reviews thus

far was that they all were self-contained; an ActiveSync

module or application of some sort runs on your desktop

and handles all conversion. What if you were a marketing

agent and wanted to upload a PowerPoint presentation

and view it from anywhere, leaving your desktop behind?

Perhaps you could then stream that presentation off

the web or download it to your Pocket PC. Presenter,

Inc.’s iPresentation Suite, reviewed here in a beta

form (and it does show), is a solution that addresses

just this need. It is a large package that must be

deployed on a reasonably capable server for your company,

though here I am using a demonstration system setup

by Presenter. But is it worth uploading a presentation

to your company’s website and depending on it’s reliability

to view the slides remotely? We will investigate this

big question throughout this review, and focus on

the Pocket PC module that allows for presentation

viewing.

WHAT’S HOT

   Aside from using a web-based

conversion and storage medium, Mobile Player supports

video and sounds.

PROGRAM FEATURES

   

Once you have been sent your login information, you

need to visit your personal iPresenter account page;

it is from here that you will be able to upload presentations,

convert (authorize) presentations, download presentations,

and organize and sort those presentations.

Here

is your home page. For any of the modules to take

on meeting, click the "Authoring" tab to

upload your first presentation. I will note, at this

point, that iPresenter is a very customizable system

and offers many options that you will not see in this

review; this review’s objective is to show how viewing

on the Pocket PC occurs, without spending much time

on some of iPresenter’s cooler features, such as presentation

narration over a telephone. Begin by clicking "Create."

Enter

slide basics, including the presenter’s information

and a description of the presentation.

Browse

to find the local PowerPoint (97/2000) file on your

hard drive. In Step 3 you can check whether or not

you want to add voice narration by calling Presenter

and recording your voice notes. While this feature

intrigued me, I never received directions on how to

call Presenter, even though I received all of my confirmation

e-mails stating the presentation was available in

my account.

If

you enter Advanced Mode, you can select a banner image

for the current presentation (an intro slide), a logo

for the presentation, or an image specific to the

presenter. Click "Submit," and your presentation

undergoes conversion. The website will remind you

that any presentations over 20 slides long should

be broken into two or more presentations. For longer

presentations, this will become quite a hassle.

When

complete, you will be presented with this confirmation

screen. An e-mail will be sent to you when the presentation

has been filed into your account. From there, you

can place it into one of your folders for quick retrieval

later.

Alternatively,

you can download and install the iPresentation

Mobile Converter (beta), which does allow you

to do local conversions via ActiveSync, by dragging

presentations onto your handheld. You can choose what

kind of VGA output you want by selecting from the

window that pops-up (above). This way, no web access

is required, but it kind of defeats the whole point

of shared presentations!

Playback –

I’m

not going to spend much time detailing the web playback

mode, but I wanted to show you how easy it is to view

your presentations (sound and video included) from

the Internet.

Click

on the Presentation tab, navigate throughout the folders

to find your target presentation, and you will see

the above control panel. From here you can perform

a web playback or download the converted file (IPF

format) to your Pocket PC.

Clicking

"Play" beside the Web brings up this intriguing

player. It supports the timing predefined in the presentation,

and can also work with a telephone narration to step

things through. Pretty neat in theory, but I did not

have the time to fully test it. I did spend a good

deal of time with the iPresentation Mobile Player.

Like

all of these PowerPoint applications, the home screen

prompts you to click on a presentation to open.

The

default view is nothing too radical from the other

applications; the Tools menu brings up some basic

functionality, you can jump around the slides using

the little arrows, sound can be turned up or down

(sound, I say?), and the timing status can be shown

or minimized.

Like

any good PowerPoint viewing solution, several useful

views are supported.

You

can switch to an overview mode,

to

the standard slide detail mode (the top part is where

presenter information and streaming video can appear),

to

the thumbnail view mode,

and

finally to the Slide show mode. No image optimization

is available like in Pocket

SlideShow, so expect to see wonderful 12-bit color

(sigh) on your iPAQ, though your presentation limits

the final output color depth, along with your VGA

Out card.

One

cool thing is support for sound and video; when I

opened Mobile Player up for the first time, Carla

O’Hara spoke to me (and kind of scared me!).

An

option in Tools, Play At Open, had been enabled, so

playback occurred as soon as I first launched the

application. Don’t get too excited about sound and

video support: Mobile Player will not support animation,

transitions, plug-ins, or other more complicated features

that the other solutions do support. In addition,

you cannot edit any aspect of the presentation (or

even add speaker notes), so this is similar to AlbatrosViewer

in that it’s a view-only solution. However, Presenter,

Inc. is really pushing the authoring and delivery

system, rather than the viewer.

In

fact, the Mobile Player I reviewed had several quirks

and bugs, and even crashed on me several times.

Cool

About screen!

VGA Output –

   

By clicking Tools–Options–Enable VGA Out, your slides

will immediately appear on your projector or monitor.

Use your joypad or rocker button to move ahead and

backwards in the presentation. Because the output

of my Colorgrahic

Voyager VGA Out Card is only 8-bit color, the

results were not too breathtaking.

HELP SUPPORT

    Not too surprisingly,

all of the iPresentation Suite components come with

full documentation, and there are plenty of help resources

online. As this is a beta, technical support is not

yet fully established, but the FAQs and what not should

keep you afloat.

OPTIONS

    No real options. The complexities

that can be voluntarily added to your presentation

are voice-over narration, but because I did not get

the information as to how to call in my notes, I was

unable to test this feature. Again, this is a beta,

so features will likely be added for the final release.

Apparently the video window supports streaming content

over the Internet, but I saw no indication as to how

to configure this. The Mobile Player does not have

a field for connection preferences, so I must assume

this build does not yet support streaming.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    If you want to take

full advantage of the iPresentation Suite, you’ll

need a potent server with several pieces of commercial

software. The minimum requirements for the Authorization

Server (PPT conversion engine) are spec’ed at:

Intel

Pentium III

512 MB RAM

300 MB free disk space

Dialogic ISDN Card 23B+D or Dialogic POTS card w/4

ports

Microsoft Windows 2000 Server or Windows NT Server

Microsoft Windows Media Services (for Windows Media

video)

RealNetworks RealSystem Server (for RealVideo playback)

Microsoft PowerPoint 2000

   

The

Management Server, which takes care of organizing

your presentations into nice categories as well as

spits out the presentations and feeds them to browsers,

requires a whole bunch of additional packages such

as Microsoft SQL Server 7.0/2000, Microsoft Site Server

3.0, and Microsoft Commerce Server 3.0. The software

might be a bit costly, but you obviously want to be

hosting all of these files on a secured, private system,

to prevent outsiders from viewing any kind of sensitive

material (most of the presentations I deal with these

days are strictly confidential, so to have someone

else host these presentations for me would be quite

unsettling!).  iPresentation Mobile Player

requires about 250 kb of free storage space and about

600 kb of free program memory, all of which can increase

with more complex presentations. In terms of conversion

compression, an IPF file with 800 x 600 VGA support

requires over 1.4 mb, versus a 675 kb PocketSlides

file and 660 kb in AlbatrosViewer. I don’t quite understand

why this particular file was so large, and I am concerned

that presentations with video and sound will become

enormous. Streaming video: where art thou?

BUGS AND WISHES

   

I

found myself bothered by lacking speed and annoying

bugs here and there, and I’m hoping these problems

are all sorted about by the final release (interestingly,

this is the third version of the product’s

incarnation!). Support for transitions would be nice

along with animations. I don’t expect to see any form

of editing available in this product, and that is

fine. It is designed for customers to view product

outlines and service descriptions, all of which have

been assembled by a marketing team, working for the

company holding the offerings.

PURCHASING

   

As

this is a beta version, I am unsure as to final prices

and licensing policies. You can bet that Presenter’s

website

will have loads of information once this is available.

Right now you can sign

up to get information once it is released.

PROS


  • Web-based

    conversion and storage


  • Support

    for sound and video


  • Small player

    footprint

CONS


  • View-only

    solution


  • Doesn’t

    support transitions or animations


  • Hefty converted

    files

OVERALL

IMPRESSION

   This is an enterprise solution,

so I wouldn’t expect the target device to have the

most amazing features; rather, it is the backend that

is most marketed and highlighted. I was unable to

install the server software on any of my machines

(would I really want to?), but because very popular

server products are supported (and required), I am

sure installation is straightforward. iPresentation

is a creative and intuitive way for networked marketing

agents to share information with their clients, complete

with video and sound, without having to do more than

upload an existing PowerPoint presentation and have

the client drop the file into their device, whether

it is an iPAQ or a desktop PC. |

 

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About The Author
Jared Miniman