280 Slides: Like Apple Keynote, But Online

What happens when two former Apple employees – one from the iPhone team and one from the iTunes Store team – go off and start their own Y Combinator-backed startup? Apparently they come up with an online slideshow tool that looks highly reminiscent of Keynote.

280 North first presented 280 Slides (now available in public beta) earlier this Spring at YC’s biannual demo day. In their presentation, the three founders emphasized two reasons why 280 Slides would take off when other browser-based PowerPoint clones had failed.

First, 280 North has been designed to make users forget that they aren’t using a desktop application. And they do a good job sustaining that illusion, even though the application is based in JavaScript not Flash. 280 North has actually built out an entire JavaScript framework called Cappuccino that it plans to release as open source soon. Competitors who are also trying to recreate the desktop experience in the browser, such as Empressr and SlideRocket, have been built in Flash (and Flex in particular).

Secondly, 280 North touts how easy it is to download your slideshows in PowerPoint format. They figure that most people shy away from using online tools because ultimately they need to share their slideshows with friends. While Google Docs can also export to PowerPoint, 280 Slides puts this functionality front and center.

Overall, this is a simple application that has been designed to work and work right. You won’t find a lot of advanced features related to charts, styling, effects or collaboration, but fundamental stuff like keyboard strokes work just the way it should. Among the features 280 Slides does boast is the ability to publish on SlideShare, grab color combos from Adobe Kuler, add videos and photos from the likes of YouTube and Flickr, and embed on other sites.

It would be good to see auto-saves (my Safari crashed once, causing me to back up a bit – this is beta after all). More themes and controls over default settings (the default font, in particular) would be welcome, too. But overall, 280 Slides does enough to appeal to basic users, and it certainly presents the most intuitive user interface of them all.

Sample slideshow after the jump – it may break on Firefox 2…