30 Million PowerPoint Presentations?

Created: Monday, February 11, 2013, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 4:00 am

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You may have heard—30 million PowerPoint presentations are created daily. Everyone quotes that figure! And the amazing part is not that 30 million is a big number. What I find more interesting than just the number is the fact that this big figure was first mentioned almost 12 years ago.

30 million PowerPoint presentations

Frankly, this 30 million figure brings forth more questions than answers:

  • What was the source of this 30 million figure? Are there scientific facts that corroborate this claim?
  • Let’s ask each other: How many PowerPoint presentations did we or others we know create 12 years ago?
  • Do we create more presentations now than more than a decade ago? For most of us, the answer is a resounding “Yes”!
  • And if more than 30 million PowerPoint presentations are really created each day, what could that number be in this year, 2013? 100 million? A billion?

No one knows the answers to all these questions, and I certainly do not. However, this 30 million figure needs to have a source. Funnily enough, one site even credits me as a possible source for this figure! Even though I cannot take this credit, I do realize that it does not matter what the exact figure may be. We all agree that an astronomical number of PowerPoint presentations are created and delivered each day—and most of these presentations have slides that are not too awesome! Now that “awesome” part is something we can discuss some other time; let us now get back to the 30 million figure.

Just for the sake of scale, let us believe that the older 30 million figure holds true for today! That would indicate that around 350 presentations are born each second! So maybe thousands of presentations are being created at the speed at which you read every single word within this article. Don’t get scared; these presentations may still get created even if you don’t read a single word!

Let us next explore retrospectively, and create a trail back to how this all started, and who better than Robert Gaskins, the founder of PowerPoint to answer this question. On his site, I found this quote (on the home page):

After I left, others from the original team continued working and ten years later, by 2003, PowerPoint revenues for Microsoft exceeded $1 billion annually. By then PowerPoint was being used by over 500 million people worldwide, with over 30 million PowerPoint presentations being made every day.

He did mention the year, 2003 — and a quick Google search bought up this PDF of a paper from Microsoft Research. The paper is dated October 2003, and this was probably the first time that someone from Microsoft quoted the 30 million figure.

However this paper does credit their source to an article by Ian Parker called Absolute PowerPoint: Can a software package edit our thoughts? This article was published by The New Yorker in their May 28, 2001 issue (pages 76–87), and is still available in the archives at the New Yorker site. In this article, Ian Parker says:

According to Microsoft estimates, at least thirty million PowerPoint presentations are made every day

So who is Ian Parker? He became a staff writer for New Yorker in 2000, and has authored some amazing articles for the publication, but I doubt if anything he has written has achieved the fame and status that his PowerPoint article did! I looked at his other articles, and those are more about literature, the arts, and even current affairs, but not much about technology. Looked up on him online, and there’s no contact info available on the New Yorker site; also no Twitter handle! So there’s only so much to assume: Parker started this 30 million “rumor” that has raged on for more than a decade. I call this a rumor because nothing or no one has substantiated this claim of 30 million, and although Microsoft somehow may have confirmed this figure by quoting 30 million PowerPoint presentations a few times, it never bothered releasing an updated number in the last 12 years?

Hopefully, we will learn more about these 30 million PowerPoints! Until then, have a great day making and showing cool slides!

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