Simplifying streaming presentations

Microsoft Corp. is releasing a free tool to help companies create streaming media presentations more easily, eliminating the need for multiple tools to create a single presentation.

The new Microsoft Producer for PowerPoint 2002 (part of Office XP) automatically converts slides into HTML and synchronizes them with recorded audio and video. The resulting multimedia presentation can be viewed in a standard Web browser in combination with Windows Media Player. Wizards help end users place presentations online without the assistance of an organization’s technical staff.

“Streaming media is starting to take hold in large organizations and the use of streaming media has doubled between October 1999 and April 2001,” said Michael Aldridge, lead product manager for the Windows Digital Media division at Microsoft. “But companies still need an easier means of content creation.”

Producer allows a user with a microphone attached to their PC to record a narration to go along with their slide presentation. The application automatically tracks when the slide is supposed to change during the narration. Animated slides are also converted. Previously, only static JPEG images could be created from PowerPoint slides, limiting their effectiveness in a Web-based presentation.

The program will also create an index that allows a viewer to skip ahead to the parts that interest them most. Content creators can choose from a range of layout styles, or if they know HTML, can create their own.

“Producer will do for digital media what FrontPage did for Web authoring,” Aldridge said, comparing the new product to Microsoft HTML editing software. “This will provide for more mainstream and ubiquitous use of streaming media, all from one tool.”

Microsoft also offers a Producer SDK for resellers and system integrators that want to build their own offerings around the tool.

Producer is free but requires Office XP.