Microsoft Pushes Analytics Collaboration Into Office Mix

Microsoft is on a roll with a fast and steady stream of upgrades and offerings for its Office suite. In the latest announcement yesterday, it offered a limited preview of its new PowerPoint ‘Mix.’

PowerPoint is unlikely to set anyone’s world on fire — but the enhancements may at least gain your attention if we told you this one includes basic analytics and interactive tools like video recording and document sharing. Oh, and one more thing. The upgrades are free of charge.

Mixing It Up

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With the tools Microsoft is previewing here, it is turning a flat, uninteresting tool used to hound workers during dreary team meetings on wet afternoons into a slick, interactive application that makes the whole presentation process a collaborative project.

We can't test Office ‘Mix’ yet. You need an access to a code from Microsoft can get into the preview site. And even if you get in, you get a notice that Office Mix is not yet ready for prime time.

But if it lives up to its promises, 'Mix' will push PowerPoint into an entirely different league.

Microsoft has provided a wealth of information about the new app on Knowledge Base, including how it works and what you will get. In answer to the obvious question: “What does it do?” Microsoft claims "makes your life a lot easier.”

Yaaay! We’re all for ‘easier.’ More specifically, it continues:

Office Mix allows you to turn your PowerPoints into interactive online lessons or presentations. We install an add-in that gives you the ability to record audio, video, and handwriting, and insert interactive elements like quizzes and CK12 exercises. There’s even a screen capture tool so you can record anything on your PC.”

You will note the reference to CK12 exercises here. From this and from Microsoft’s comments, Microsoft appears to be targeting the education sector, although there is absolutely no reason why businesses that use the cloud shouldn’t use it, too. Microsoft adds:

Once your presentation is ready just click 'Create Mix.' We work our magic to mix it into an interactive document complete with analytics, and place it in the cloud. From there, just share the link, and your students [of employees!] can watch it on just about any device with a web browser."

The analytics element enables authors to see who has accessed their presentation and what they have done with it. According to Microsoft, ‘Mix’ works best with touchscreen PCs and webcams. Users without touchscreens will not be able to use the handwriting capture function.

Waking Microsoft

While all services included in Office Mix are free, it does require Office 2013. An Office 365 subscription will enable users to view presentations that have been ‘Mixed’ on their Macs and other devices.

This is only one of a number of changes and upgrades around Office recently. First Microsoft rebranded Microsoft Web Apps as Then it introduced Office for iPad and new pricing for Office 365 Personal. The latter offers users a reduced price license for Office Online on both a PC and a tablet.

Now we have Office ‘Mix’ and the promise of more in the near future.

But it’s not the only area that’s moving. The Russian pirate group WZOR leaked additional information about Windows 9 and another update to Windows today, some of which indicated that the Windows release and upgrade cycle is speeding up. Windows Phone 8.1 will also see the launch of the new interactive personal assistant Cortana to rival Apple’s Siri.

In all, it’s been quite an eventful few months for Microsoft with new products and maybe even a new sense of purpose. Does it have something to do with the new CEO?