In an era of social-media marketing, school fundraisers, and Kickstarter campaigns, more and more people need to persuade others to do something. Not everybody has the budget or skills for a TED talk, though, which is why Adobe is launching a new iPad app called Voice.
The free app walks people through a handful of templates, offering a narrative structure like "hero's journey" or "promote an idea." People then add clip art, music, and graphics to build a pitch. Voice then generates a video hosted on Adobe's website or replayed on the iPad. The video can be embedded on websites, shared over social networks, or emailed to contacts.
"If you can't tell a persuasive story using video today, you're generally not going to be part of the conversation," said Ely Greenfield, senior principal scientist for Adobe's digital imaging business. "We don't want people getting bogged down in all the details of production. We want them to focus on telling the story in their own voice."
As CNET first reported last year, Adobe began testing Voice last October under the code name Ginger. Now the company is ready to release it -- the first of a planned series of apps intended to carry Adobe's name beyond creative professionals to a larger market.
Adobe was one of those companies whose clout in the PC era of computing didn't immediately transfer to the explosively growing smartphone and tablet markets. It's released some mobile apps like Photoshop and Kuler that lie closer to its traditional market, but other apps like Instagram have stolen much of the company's thunder. If Voice succeeds, a much broader audience will recognize the Adobe name and consider it relevant.
"We want to get this into as many hands as possible. There are a lot of people out there who have this need -- a much bigger audience than our traditional customer base, and we're still earning about these customers," Greenfield said.
Eventually, Adobe will work on making money out of that broader audience, but not yet. Voice is "the first of a number different things. There will be premium pieces in there," Greenfield said.
Adobe long has catered to professionals with software like Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and Premiere Pro. That software has never been cheap, though, and Adobe has angered a sizeable number of customers by shifting sales from perpetual licensing to its Creative Cloud subscription plan. Apps like Voice hold the potential to reach more mainstream customers -- people at schools, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations that may not have the expertise in Adobe's full software suite much less the $50 a month it costs to use it.
Voice starts off asking users what type of presentation they'd like to make. It chooses music then presents within that presentation's framework. People record snippets of audio to accompany each page, and Voice "sweetens" the recordings to make the voice-over more appealing, Greenfield said.
Depending on what sorts of photos and illustrations people use, Voice automatically sets transitions from one page to another as it constructs the video, with animations and other effects.
The app is only for iPad today, but Adobe plans to expand.
"It's easy for us to start with iPad because that's the device that's most prominent in the US. What's great about it is its consistent hardware," Greenfield said.
Thus far, Voice can't export a video as a presentation that might accompany a talk, a job where Microsoft's PowerPoint has long been an entrenched power. But Adobe will consider it as it gradually improves Voice.
"We've had people ask for it," Greenfield said. "The focus now is the video, but it's a direction we might grow."