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A shake-out in presentations?

A SHAKE-OUT IN PRESENTATIONS? We've always been a bit baffled by the imaginary line that separates presentation graphics programs (which create fancy graphs and charts, often in the form of slides and overheads) and desktop presentations products (which also create slides and overheads, usually with text content). The fact is, many of the presentations we see--or make--involve a combination of graphs and text. Using two different applications to create a single presentation isn't just overkill: It's a damned nuisance.

Lately, though, we've seen evidence that the imaginary line between these two categories is beginning to fade away. The leading desktop presentations packages--especially Microsoft's new Windows 3 version of PowerPoint, Symantec's More 3 for the Mac, and IBM's unannounced Hollywood product (which we've seen under non-disclosure) all include very powerful graphing and charting modules. At the same time, the newest versions of traditional graphing packages (Harvard Graphics, Freelance Plus, Cricket Graph, Micrografx Charisma) have picked up a few tricks from their desktop presentations siblings, such as slide show management features and support for speaker notes. Within a year or two, we suspect that the two types of products will overlap so completely that product reviewers and end users will decide to treat all presentation products as essentially one category.

That's clearly good news for folks like us who create lots of data-intensive presentations. But it's a more threatening situation for the market leaders in both presentations categories, who now will face a far broader range of competitors. In the short run, the products that are probably most vulnerable are traditional graphing and charting titles like Harvard Graphics and Freelance Plus, which have evolved at a relatively sedate pace. (Microsoft has already positioned PowerPoint as a Harvard and Freelance killer for the same reason that John Dillon said he robbed banks: That's where the money is. These two products alone will probably generate close to $100 million in revenues this year, far more than the revenues of all desktop presentations titles combined.) We suspect that when the dust clears, the leading titles will be those with roots in the desktop presentations category; graphing and charting programs that fail to keep pace will end up competing as low-priced commodity-style products.

However, we also expect that the presentations category may turn out to be so crowded that it becomes difficult for anyone to turn a profit. Many of the industry's biggest players--Microsoft, IBM, SPC, Lotus, Computer Associates, Symantec, Aldus, Ashton-Tate, Micrografx, and WordPerfect--are already pouring money into accelerated product development and high-visibility marketing campaigns to capture leading positions in the presentations category. Clearly, there's no way that all of these companies can possibly end up with first- or second-tier market shares; probably most will be lucky to hold even 5% of the total pie. That kind of market share is rarely profitable in the software world, and so the end result is likely to be long list of presentations titles that are abandoned, sold, or otherwise orphaned by their publishers.
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Title Annotation:presentation software forecast
Date:Jun 22, 1990
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