Sway: Microsoft’s vs. Apple’s market engagement

Thursday, 06 August 2015

During my lunch with Philip Hodgetts, he said that it is Apple’s policy to always provide tools the support personal creativity. Given that Apple don’t seem to consider other video editing software as competition for their products, it’s worth looking at other tools that might be.

Microsoft Sway is a presentation/motion graphics creation tool that isn't at all like Microsoft PowerPoint or Adobe After Effects. As you can see in this Microsoft video on YouTube, users define the structure of the story they want to tell and the content they want to work with and leave the design up to Sway.

This works very well when you want to tell a story that works across a variety of screen sizes, aspect ratios and orientations. Here’s product manager Chris Pratley as quoted by Fast Company:

“Once they realize, ‘Oh right, I’m designing something that works across devices, and the way I do that is by expressing my intent rather than all these pixel-level sizes and so on,’ they have this eureka moment”

Microsoft learning from their market

An interesting aspect of the development of Sway is how Microsoft seemed to work with the potential audience for Sway:

The last time I spoke with Pratley, he mentioned that Sway was an experiment in letting users dictate the direction of a product. While he won’t come to any conclusions yet, he now points to the Windows 10 Insider program as an example of the company opening up more to outside suggestions.

”I actually think it’s the new way that everything new will be made, and we’re going to be adapting this to be the sort of agile approach where we react to feedback for everything else that already exists,” Pratley says.

Apple’s market insight?

The Apple position is that they don’t ask what a possble market wants. They work like Pixar: the policy is to make products and services for people like themselves, then work out which markets also need those tools. 

That works as long as the people who work at Apple aren’t too different from the people who make up the markets they want to sell to.

That means those of us who are interested in the future of Final Cut and iMovie shouldn’t tell Apple want we want; we should make sure Apple understand us well enough for them to give us what they think we need.