Microsoft's latest example that it can make a cool app: A new presentation program.
Called Sway, the free app is a modern take on slideshow software that lets you drop in photos, text and videos from your personal collection or from social networks like Twitter into an interactive deck. It's a fresh competitor to PowerPoint, Microsoft's own ubiquitous presentation tool, and a reaction to increasingly popular alternatives like Prezi and Canva, which offer slick, cheaper and more modern takes on presentations and slideshows.
Microsoft announced Wednesday that Sway is now generally available for PCs and tablets running its Windows 10 software, which was released on July 29. Sway was also previously available in its beta testing phase for Apple's iPhone and iPad and within a Web browser.
In many ways, Sway represents how Microsoft is trying to change up its business. Under the stewardship of CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has spent the past 18 months transforming its products and its approach to customers. It's moved away from selling software at flat (and high) prices in favor of offering subscriptions to its Internet-based apps and services. To promote those services, Microsoft has been giving away software for free, often on mobile devices made by competitors, and then charging for extra features down the line through products like its subscription service Office 365.
Sway does not require such a subscription, which marks it as one of the rare pieces of software that Microsoft is using to prove that it has the software chops to make a hit app and give it away free of charge. The service follows Microsoft's strategy of playing nice with other companies' products, so Sway will let users pull in videos from Google's YouTube, looping images from Twitter's Vine app and tunes from music service Soundcloud. That openness gives Sway a broader appeal and will ensure that younger users who use software and online services from a variety of different companies don't feel constrained only to Microsoft products.Sway is also important because it is not PowerPoint. Microsoft's flagship presentation software, which launched 25 years ago with Microsoft Office, has had a far-reaching cultural impact on businesses and education, informing how everything from board meetings to college courses communicate information to a large group of people. It is also incredibly old and carries with it the stigma of dry, uninteresting seminars and poor font choices.
Sway, like the Internet Explorer browser that was replaced by all-new Edge browser in Windows 10, is a way for Microsoft to deliver a similar product outside the confines of a legacy PowerPoint cannot escape.
Microsoft says Sway is designed to accomplish different tasks than PowerPoint, like interactive storytelling that lets the software make design choices such as slide color and placement of photos instead of forcing the user to. That makes it simpler, the company says, as an attractive option for businesses and students who don't want to get in the weeds with PowerPoint.