Global tech

Microsoft takes the fight up to Canva with a free graphic design tool

- October 21, 2022 3 MIN READ
MIcrosoft CEO Satya Nadella
MIcrosoft CEO Satya Nadella
Global tech giant Microsoft is taking on Canva with a new free graphic design app in Microsoft 365.

A web preview of the Designer app is already available for early use, with the company’s corporate VP, Liat Ben-Zur, saying the app is born out of PowerPoint, where Designer uses AI to make template suggestions as you build out a presentation.

“Microsoft Designer is powered by AI technology, including DALL∙E 2 by OpenAI, which means you’re able to instantly generate a variety of designs with minimal effort. Our cutting-edge AI supercharges your ideas,” she said.

“Depending on the type of content, Designer in PowerPoint will offer several options for you to choose from. In fact, more than eight billion slide designs (and counting) have been saved by our customers with Designer in PowerPoint. We’re thrilled to expand on that legacy, adding the latest cutting-edge text to image AI, with the new Designer app.”

Ben-Zur said they want people to try it now and give feedback to “make it great”, with plans to also integrate Designer into Microsoft Edge.

” The current free preview does not include all planned features to come; we will be adding more over time. Once the app is ready for general availability, it will be available both as a free app and with more premium features available to Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers,” she said.

“With Designer, there’s no need to spend time building cards or social media posts from scratch. And you no longer need to search through thousands of pre-made templates. Designer invites you to start with an idea and let the AI do the heavy lifting.

“For example, with ‘start from scratch’ within Designer, you can simply describe an image you want to see, and the app does the work for you to create something totally unique. As you work in Designer, every surface of the app is powered by AI to help ensure consistent, aligned, properly scaled, and beautiful designs, even with or without any inherent design ability.”

Clipchamp relaunched

The announcement last week came as Microsoft fulling integrated its acquisition of Australian video startup Clipchamp into its 365 ecosystem.

Dubbed the ‘Canva of video’ by investor Steve Baxter, the deal to acquire Queensland startup for an undisclosed sum was announced in September last year.

Ben-Zur said Microsoft 365 subscribers have access to premium features within Clipchamp at no extra cost.

“We realise that creators do not just want to build beautiful logos, social media posts, and invitations, they also want to create awesome videos,” she said.

“For the first time, the Microsoft 365 suite of apps includes a free video editor so you can create beautiful videos in no time. Whether it is a daily vlog, a viral dance video, a family video, or a highlight reel, Clipchamp helps you weave together video, sound, and effects quickly and easily.”

A user is editing a 45 second video using Clipchamp. The frame at the 10s mark shows mountains and clouds with a violet hue, with Early morning hike text overlay on the video frame.

The software giant also revealed a new website, Microsoft Create for videos, graphic designs, documents, presentations, and more.

“It is the ultimate creator launchpad that brings together the power of our content creation apps—from Designer to Clipchamp to PowerPoint to Word and beyond,” Ben-Zur said

“Create can help spark inspiration and up-level your skills with professional templates, curated articles, and videos from others who have been in your shoes. We are thrilled to bring this new website to help you try and learn something new about content creation.”

Battling Canva

The new range of design software meets Canva head on after the privately owned Australian startup recently announced a suite of new publishing functions, having last year launched a PowerPoint rival last year and in September introducing a Word challenger.

On the same day Microsoft released its upgrades, Canva announced it now had 100 million monthly users.

Canva recently had its valuation cut by 36% by leading local investors, leaving the global design giant valued at US$25.6 billion, a fall of US$14.4 billion on the US$40bn valuation at its last raise September. However, a sliding Aussie dollar against the Greenback has seen Canva’s valuation improve by 10% in AUD terms to $41bn over the last two months.

Microsoft also announced one more weapon in its product armoury last week, with the launch of Image Creator from Microsoft Bing. It uses the same DALL∙E 2-powered image-generator tech in the Microsoft Designer app to bring ideas to life. Simply type in a description of something, any additional context like location or activity, and an art style, and Image Creator makes it.

This week, Adobe, another global tech brand Canva has been targeting, announced a series of product upgrades and collaboration tools at its Adobe Max conference in California.