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Tech Talk

The writing is on the wall for Evernote


When the application development revolution hit, a few products were almost immediately available: games, calculators, web browsers, messaging apps, business software and organization tools. The odd thing is both iOS and Android had all the obvious applications satiated by third party developers, not by Apple or Google. Maybe the most foolish software necessity lesson both companies learned was in the organization world, when the note-taking application Evernote roared out to almost instantaneous success.

For as long as there’s been recorded language, humanity has sought out mud and wall, paint and canvas, quill and parchment, pen and paper, or keyboard and screen to jot down thoughts. In the world of “There’s an app for that,” Evernote is easily the default note-taking app. Across Android, iOS and Windows, more than 100 million users are dedicated to taking notes, making lists, clipping content from the Internet, saving emails and basically organizing their entire life on Evernote. Why Evernote? The short answer is that it was built elegantly and launched at a time when no one was supplying a mobile product that smartphone users found intuitive and attractive. The long answer is Apple, Google and Microsoft all blew 12.3

OK, so a long answer should be much more complicated than that, but just know that the end of the story is that the tech whiz kids couldn’t see the easiest tech play of them all. By the time baby startup Evernote launched in 2008, all the tech adults had almost 20 years of evidence to see that a mobile note-taking app would have been a hit. For Exhibit A, look no further than Microsoft Office.

Before the Internet truly became a thing, Office was what sold computers. Released in 1990 — 18 years before Evernote hit the App Store — Microsoft Word, Excel, Publisher and Works propped up Microsoft to be the biggest tech dynasty of our short computing history. Excel and Word were taught to schoolchildren, corporations bought decades-long licenses to use the suite, and something along the lines of “Proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel” became the closing statement for nearly every white-collar job post. So how did Google, Apple and Microsoft completely miss out on ripping off Microsoft Office for the mobile world?

Well just because they were late to the game doesn’t mean they decided to forgo it completely. Today, Google Drive, Apple iWork and Mobile Office 365 are all powerful and popular mobile software suites. Better still, if you’re a Google fan boy, there’s no way you’re still using Evernote, as Drive is free, whereas Evernote has different pay levels to access all of its services. Even more alarming for Evernote, every service that it offers can be found in the tech giant equivalents. And if you happen to be an Office 365 user, your work is connected via the web to the original desktop software, Microsoft Office. As popular as Evernote is, Microsoft Office is still the king of word processing and spreadsheet management. So in the long run, that 365-to-Office connection could spell Evernote’s doom.


Finally, the writing may be on the wall already for Evernote. Two weeks ago, the company’s CEO stepped down after only four months in office. Things must be horrifically stagnant in Evernote land for its commander and chief to walk away from 100 million users and a very popular app. Ultimately it’s hard to tell if Evernote’s days are numbered or if it will shed its skin and become something entirely different. In the meantime, if you’re an Evernote user, consider looking for an alternative note-taking tool, as the elephant icon app might be facing extinction. CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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