Last week, Microsoft introduced Sway, a content aggregation program that allows users to develop visually appealing, interactive presentations without requiring any knowledge of web design. Sway makes it possible to easily combine photos, video, audio and text into content that’s automatically arranged into a format which the user can then make adjustments to.
The program will be the first new app added to the Microsoft Office Suite in about 10 years, but it may need to define its purpose more clearly before it catches on.
Sway is a “Web-Based Canvas”
Microsoft Sway uses an algorithm to arrange content elements into a slick-looking format immediately after any changes are made, meaning that a user’s report is “always done.” Possible content layouts include interactive stacks, grids or slideshows. The program also allows users to search YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and OneDrive for content elements that can be dragged and dropped into the presentation without having to leave the app. The presentations, known as “Sways,” will be stored in Microsoft’s Azure cloud, and photos used within any Sway will be stored in OneDrive. Sways can be shared through links or socially through Facebook and Twitter.
One of the biggest advantages to Microsoft Sway is the ability to create content that looks professionally designed regardless of whether a reader is using a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. According to Microsoft, Sway should be useful for targeting the 1 billion people in the world who do not have computers but do own smartphones.
As of now, Microsoft Sway can only be used by requesting an invite. The tech giant is looking to crowdsource the future of the app by relying heavily on user feedback and comments before Sway sees a wide release. This is probably a smart strategy, as there’s one big question that needs to be addressed…
Is Anybody Going to Use It?
There’s no doubt that Sway is a cool program. Being able to easily create a slick, attractive presentation without needing to deal with coding or plugins is fantastic. But the problem here is that Microsoft hasn’t really decided what it wants Sway to be. As of now, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether the program will be more of a consumer app or a business tool. It looks ideal for book reports; in fact, one of the main examples provided for Microsoft Sway is called The Red Panda, which is a project supposedly created by a seventh-grader. On the other hand, it could prove just as effective for business presentations or online brochures.
This is not to suggest that an app can’t succeed in both sectors, but any software needs a well-defined audience. Trying to please everybody can actually lead to software that doesn’t serve anybody well. For business use, what will make Microsoft Sway stand apart from PowerPoint besides the ability to drag and drop from social sources? Can the app actually compete with services such as WordPress that allow people to design a website without coding knowledge? Will it catch on with professional publishers or will low-level content creators use it to flood the Internet with attractive content that actually has little substance? Hopefully Microsoft’s crowdsourcing can help them answer some of these questions before Sway is officially released.
Check out the Microsoft Sway promo video below: