Happy 20th PowerPoint!

Wow, PowerPoint is 20 years old. All of us on the PowerPoint team have been heads down working on the new version of PowerPoint and the PowerPoint Beta Converter so we totally missed this huge milestone. By the way, the PowerPoint Beta converter is now available and you can download it from here. It will allow you to open a lot of files from Windows PowerPoint 2007 but not all. It’s a beta and there are issues so keep that in mind when trying it out.

Anyway, my name is Marcus and I’m the Lead Program Manager for PowerPoint:mac 2008. None of us on the team knew about the 20 year anniversary until we read about it in the Wall Street Journal a month or so ago. I actually have the original copy of PowerPoint on my bookshelf and it’s kind of interesting to see how much has changed. First off, PowerPoint was originally from a company called Forethought. Forethought also marketed another product you may have heard of called FileMaker which Microsoft didn’t get in the acquisition. For the longest time, the PowerPoint team was the only Microsoft development group in Silicon Valley---now there are many. The manual for this thing was literally a hard bound book with 211 pages and on top of this was a separate 46 page Getting Started Guide. In the box there are two 3.5” floppies with all of PowerPoint fitting on a single 800K disk. On the side of the box it clearly states “For Apple Macintosh” which means only PowerPoint:mac is 20 years old. I like to tease my friends upstairs on the Windows PowerPoint team that they have to wait a few years before they can celebrate their 20th anniversary.

20 years ago was an exciting time to work on the Mac. I personally remember working for Apple on something called the Apple Open House Tour. My job was to demo this new program called PageMaker to people in shopping malls and to explain what desktop publishing was. I remember people being amazed at creating and seeing a document on the screen and then being able to print it out perfectly using the LaserWriter. I also had to explain what HyperCard was which was a little more difficult. A few years later I worked at Claris (Now called FileMaker) and remember we were desperately trying to add presentation capabilities to MacDraw because we all thought the presentation category was going to be the next big thing. Our competition was Harvard Graphics which ruled the DOS world, Aldus Persuasion, Cricket Presents, More and of course Microsoft PowerPoint. Presentations in those days meant 35mm slides and printouts on transparencies for overhead projectors. At a previous job at Nortel I remember being told that a single 35mm slide that showed a network diagram of our PBX cost $38K to produce. Boy, PowerPoint and the Mac sure changed that.

Well we’ve come a long way in 20 years and I can honestly say that PowerPoint:mac 2008 will be the best version of PowerPoint ever. We’ve got all the important stuff you see in Windows PowerPoint like the new file format, rich graphics and SmartArt (Cool new diagramming). But we’ve also added some nice little Mac-only things to give our customers bragging rights which we’ll talk about more as we get closer to shipping. Let me just end by thanking Bob Gaskins, Dennis Austin and Tom Rudkin for creating a great product and to all of the people after them who have worked tirelessly to deliver awesome new versions of PowerPoint for our customers. I’m looking forward to the next 20 years.