Apple iOS, Google Android apps tweaked for on-demand, video-like content

Brainshark has unveiled features for its video presentation service to create a more interactive experience for smartphone users.

Brainshark has unveiled features for its video presentation service to create a more interactive experience for smartphone users.

The code is part of Brainshark Enhanced Mobile, a module targeted at enterprises that want to create and distribute video-like presentations for mobile marketing, training, customer education and other purposes. The presentations can be created using Brainshark's Web-based authoring service from existing content such as imported PowerPoint presentations or Microsoft Word documents. These are then combined with animations (from simple to complex), fade ins/outs, video clips, and voice-over narration.

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The result is a file that can be streamed in various formats to mobile device players or HTML5 browsers to be viewed. The presentations are surprisingly sophisticated, as an array of online samples reveal.

"The ability to reuse existing content and deliver it is attractive to enterprises, based on the feedback I have received," says Bill Pray, a research director with Gartner.

According to Pray, the benefits of Brainshark for the enterprise are similar to those of web conferencing, but with a key difference: "This use case centers around on-demand content creation and consumption rather than real-time collaboration," he says.

The big web conferencing vendors – Adobe, Cisco, Citrix, IBM and Microsoft - all offer some ability to create and consume on-demand content, according to Pray. But it's the primary focus for vendors like Brainshark and BrightTalk, he says.

The key changes in Brainshark Enhanced Mobile are a new Adobe Flash-based player for Android and Palm webOS devices, and changes to Brainshark's iOS app (launched in January).

Other new features include more information about mobile viewing patterns, such as the total time a user spends watching the video presentation and "clickpath tracking," which traces how users navigate through the elements of the presentations. Presentation authors now can include interactive polls and surveys in their projects. Finally, Brainshark created an interface, based on the SCORM protocol, to link presentations with third-party learning management systems.

Brainshark, of Waltham, Mass., was founded in 2000 and developed a software-based service to deconstruct files such as a PowerPoint presentation into its constituent objects, such as diagrams, photos, animations, and text, and index them.  Using the online tools, authors can combine them into presentations that seem more like custom-made videos, which are costly to produce.

The idea, says CEO Joe Gustafson, is to let enterprises uses existing static content to create more effective video-like presentations. The service is used in marketing, customer relationship management, partner communications, training and education applications.

Also part of Brainshark's service are reporting tools that let authors see measures of the presentation's reach and effectiveness, and how viewers are making use of it.  Finally, the company has created a set of workflow tools designed around generic applications, such as marketing, and syndicating content to channel partners. There's also a free personal version of the service, called My Brainshark.com.

The new Enhanced Mobile offering is intended to improve viewing for, and reporting on, mobile users of Brainshark-created content. (The product's webpage offers demonstrations and details) The new Flash-based player lets Android and webOS users receive attached documents, search a table of contents and shift between different sections of the file, for example. The iOS app has been tweaked so it can be invoked automatically, and now offers many of the same features as the Flash player.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida is using Brainshark to craft presentations to communicate plan information to its 4 million members, and for sales communications and on-demand training for agents and brokers. All these groups are using mobile devices and the health insurer wants to make these tools as accessible and convenient as possible, according to Jep Larkin, director of sales communications for BCBSF.

"Our sales force can now consume Brainshark training presentations anytime, in between meetings, from home, and on the road," he says. "The new [mobile] tracking data will let us see who has viewed our presentations and how much they've watched."

Pricing for the online service, which for business customers includes Brainshark Enhanced Mobile, varies based on the size of the business: small office/home office professionals, typically start at $10 per month, up to $3,000 per year; small-to-medium businesses, run $10,000-$30,000 per year; lLarge businesses, over $50,000 per year.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnwwEmail: john_cox@nww.comBlog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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