Black Tonic: Present Your Slides Live Online

Wolverine, Portland-based design consultancy firm, today launched Black Tonic, a web-based app that helps presenters deliver a presentation to their viewers — live and in real time.

There’s no shortage of web-based applications for authoring and publishing presentations (Google (s goog) Docs, Slideshare) or screen-sharing (Yuuguu) in real time, but Wolverine has chosen to orient its Black Tonic app around a handful of basic principles that differentiate it from existing services:

  • Instant “experience sharing,” synchronizing browsers for all those watching a presentation.
  • Placing control in the hands of the presenter alone.
  • Stripping back the interface to give prominence to the slides’ content, rather than the app itself.

After signing up, presenters’ accounts are provisioned with a custom subdomain, and they can begin to upload their slides as a series of GIF, JPEG or PNG images. Once uploaded, presenters can invite viewers to their presentation simply by issuing them with the unique URL automatically generated by the application; for example,

The synchronized presentation sessions — powered by the company’s innovative XS technology — work great and require minimal explanation to viewers; they just click and watch. However, despite my fondness for simplicity in application and service design, the stripped-back, minimalist features of Black Tonic’s suggest a great, albeit unfinished service.

Critically, Black Tonic is missing a mechanism to directly import Keynote (s aapl) or Powerpoint (s msft) slides, or even batch upload slide images; this raises the barrier to entry for new users. Though the XS-powered synchronization works very well, presentations need an additional medium to provide context — such as a conference call or real-time chat. Providing built-in features to set up, for example, a Skype conference call, though reducing simplicity, would provide value to users and even a route to future revenues.

Less crucially, it’s unclear if the generated URLs are permalinks. If so, should a downloadable collection of slides be available alongside privacy controls? And why not also shorten those URLs by default for further flexibility —, for example.

Black Tonic shows great promise and it’s worth experimenting with. I suspect that the creators — David Price and Phillipe Blanc — will be adding features rapidly as they learn how users are responding, so do register and give your feedback!

Tried Back Tonic? Let us know what you think of it below.

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