Evernote’s Endgame

On Monday I asked in my linked post to the Evernote acquisition of Penultimate:

Anybody else confused about Evernote’s endgame?

I genuinely am confused by what their goal is, but Federico Viticci points out their goal on the Evernote site, quoting:

Save your ideas, things you like, things you hear, and things you see.

That’s really only one part, as Evernote claims it has three goals: capture anything, access anywhere, find things fast.

So where do Skitch and Penultimate come in?

Evernote says Penultimate will help with handwriting recognition, ok. I just don’t see the value in these acquisitions at all. A few others chimed in with thoughts on Evernote’s endgame too.

Michael Schechter guesses:

Evernote wants to be our external brain and our brain tends to capture a variety of media in a variety of ways. That doesn’t always lend itself to a single application. As it continues to evolve, I see a world where Evernote’s prime offering becomes less about capture more about storage and recall.

Schechter sees Evernote needing more apps to accomplish this goal, but Gabe (ye, Macdrifter) points out something I certainly feel:

I’d like Evernote to stop buying sharing buttons and start buying Evernote enhancements.

I’m with Gabe on that one — even though I am not currently an Evernote user, I do try it from time to time because it can be a powerful tool.

All of this brings me to the one glaring problem that I have always had with Evernote, and it is noted by Viticci:

If Evernote really wants to stay around for the next 100 years, they have to build a solid foundation of connected apps now.

Agreed, but more than that — they absolutely must make their tools excellent, because right now they only have good tools. There’s a big difference between good and excellent.

If Evernote truly wants to be the place that I “capture anything” then it has to make it seamless for me to do so. Every time I give Evernote a go, I get held up on the capture process — and it is a process.

Entering text should be as easy as it is in Drafts if Evernote truly wants me to use it as a capture tool. Until you reach that level you just have a tool that captures things, but in a cumbersome manner.

Evernote does a good job at “access anywhere”, but really they should have been the Dropbox in this category. If I was Evernote I would have squashed the Dropbox powered text editor movement on iOS by opening and pushing the Evernote engine as the sync engine. That’s truly access anywhere, because right now — truthfully — they are “access anywhere we have an app, and only in our apps”. Again, there’s an important difference here.

Lastly we have “find things fast”. I can’t comment very well on this because I don’t have enough data in the app, so let’s just say this is acceptable since I don’t remember having complaints about it — or hearing complaints.

Even if Evernote succeeds at “find things fast” I think it largely does just an average job at its first two goals. Which brings me back to my question: what’s their end game with these acquisitions?

How does Skitch and Penultimate tie in to make “capture” and “access” better? There are some obvious areas where these two help the capture aspect, but then why require users to download, install, and use multiple apps if the goal is “capture anything”?

Evernote, in my head, has always been billed as a tool of that nature of: “you only need this tool, it does everything.” In that sense Evernote is a lot like a Leatherman — very handy, but not the best at anything other than being really handy.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have its place — I own three Leatherman tools — but it is to say that what makes a Leatherman handy is that all the tools are in one package. What Evernote is doing is selling the Leatherman, but also saying there is a neat hammer and a neat drill that you can buy to go along with it — which makes the entire package a bit less handy.

Originally posted for members on: May 9, 2012
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