The Missing Feature From Office 2010

One button voice-over recording, encoding in the cloud, and publishing to multiple Web platforms. That is what is missing in Microsoft Office 2010.

May 23, 2010

One button voice-over recording, encoding in the cloud, and publishing to multiple Web platforms. That is what is missing in Microsoft Office 2010.

For a great discussion of Office 2010 and Microsoft's relationship with higher education I recommend listening to the podcast, Microsoft Has Its Head in the Cloud. I'm a big fan of Cameron D. Evans, the CTO of Microsoft Education, (check out his great blog here), hopefully this request will get on his radar.

I'm baffled as to why Microsoft has failed to turn its Office productivity suite into a rapid authoring multimedia creation, publishing, and distribution platform. It seems as if Microsoft has all the technical pieces in places, but lacks the vision to bring to the market something original and compelling. The Web version of Office will be nice, but this necessary step only follows what Google has been doing for years.

The 4 Missing Features:

1. The ability to record a voice over-presentation in any Office application with the touch of one button. Ideally, the recording should have a microphone and a webcam source, so I can easily add voice and video to any voice-over.

2. One-touch uploading of the voice-over recorded file to the Microsoft cloud. All of the processing and encoding of the file should take place on Microsoft servers, and it should be free.

3. The ability to manage my voice-over recordings using a Web front-end system. I want unlimited storage of the media files I've created, and the ability to have them re-encoded in any standard format (say H.264) that I choose.

4. At the publishing stage (in the client application), the ability to choose a publishing destination for my voice-over file. This could include YouTube, or iTunesU, or even a Learning Management System (LMS).

The advantages of such as set of features, for both users and Microsoft, should be obvious. On the user side, the ability to easily create voice-over presentations in any application greatly increases the value of that application. PowerPoint for lectures is already ubiquitous, but a feature that allowed easy and secure publishing of the created movie from Word, Outlook, Excel, Access, or even IE would make each of these applications much more useful.

Microsoft could leverage its enormous investments in cloud computing infrastructure to handle all the processing, encoding and storage that would be required. Turning Office into a rapid authoring, publishing and distribution platform would bring features to these applications that Google Docs can not match. I want to record my presentations on a full client application, not a Web application, as I don't want to depend on being connected to the Web while recording.

This set of features would also push the lecture and presentation capture vendors to offer value adds to their current offerings. A system that could capture voice and webcam video in any Office application would put significant pressure on existing lecture and presentation product offerings, but I think they would innovate in other directions.

The fact is that Microsoft needs to do something bold to get our attention away from the awesome collaborative features in Google Docs. I'm not sure how much I'd miss Microsoft Office if it disappeared today. There are enough alternatives that allow both greater collaboration and simplified authoring that the Office suite no longer feels like an essential purchase. Microsoft could change this tomorrow if it leveraged its cloud infrastructure to provide simple voice-over authoring, publishing, file management, and distribution across their productivity applications.

What do you think could be a disruptive new feature for Microsoft Office?


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