In Part 1 of our interview with Evernote CEO Phil Libin, we explored the history of Evernote – including its link to the Apple Newton. In Part 2, we look ahead to the future of Evernote. The company has ambitious plans to be your secondary brain. Literally. As Libin told me, “You will just have a chip in your head, or something. You’ll just think about it and there’s your external brain; and you’ll get things that way.”
Will consumers want to access a web app like Evernote via a chip in their head? Before you make up your mind, find out what Evernote has in store for the next 20 years…
Evernote in its simplest form is a note-taking app. You can use it for making online lists, which is my own main use for Evernote. However, Evernote’s larger vision is to be a memory capture app – and its future largely depends on whether it can convince people to use it that way. For example, saving photos of restaurants you go to into Evernote so that you will always have a memory of it.
If you’re unfamiliar with Evernote, this cutesy promo video does a good job of explaining the product:
Evernote launched as a public beta in June 2008. I began Part 2 of the interview by asking Evernote CEO Phil Libin if Evernote has changed much since June 2008…
Phil Libin: Well, it got a lot bigger. The basics were all there at launch. That took about a year since I’d joined in the summer of 2007. I brought a whole bunch of new people with me, who were going to be part of my original company, and we all spent about a year building the new product. We worked on it from the summer of 2007, launched it into Beta in June 2008 – and the main pieces were all there. We had a Windows app, a Mac app, a web service – everything synced together. We had Windows Mobile and iPhone versions. Since then, it’s expanded to a lot more phones and software platforms, plus we’ve added many features. It’s grown to keep pace with what the original vision was.
Richard MacManus: One thing that we’ve seen over the last year or so is that you have expanded into different devices like the iPad. Have you got any further plans for device expansion?
“The goal is to be everywhere. Ubiquity is a really big part of Evernote. It’s supposed to be all of your memories, all the time, everywhere…”
PL: Yes, definitely. The goal is to be everywhere. Ubiquity is a really big part of Evernote. It’s supposed to be all of your memories, all the time, everywhere, without ever having to worry about what device you happen to be using.
In the past two and a half years, we have broadened quite a bit. So now we’re on pretty much every type of phone, every type of computer [and] we are going on a whole bunch of new tablets. We have an iPad version now for tablets. There are a lot of android devices and a lot of tablets coming out, that Evernote will be on. In the short term, we will also be on smart televisions, refrigerators, cars. The real vision is that at some point this is part of you, but until that happens it should be a part of everything that you touch.
We laid out a plan that was an almost 20-year plan, for where we want Evernote to come up to. So it still feels like we’re very much in the early stages of that.
RM: What do you mean by “at some point this is part of you”?Tell us more about the long-term vision, because 20 years is a long time in technology…
“The real vision is that at some point this is part of you, but until that happens it should be a part of everything that you touch.”
PL: The idea is that in the very long term, we are talking about the sci-fi distant future twenty years or whatever, it won’t matter. You will just have a chip in your head, or something. You’ll just think about it and there’s your external brain; and you’ll get things that way.
[Ed: for an alternative view on brain implants, read Marshall Kirkpatrick’s op-ed: The Internet Brain Implant: Why We Should Say No]
Until that happens, the next best thing is that (for example) you wake up in a strange hotel room at 3 AM, you’re not exactly where you are because you’re still kind of asleep, and you just reach your hand out and get whatever device, whatever gadget you first touch, and you should be able to run Evernote on that. So, it should be on your phone, your camera, your TV, your car – absolutely everywhere.
In Part 3 we will find out who is using Evernote currently and some of the popular use cases.