LeWeb: Evernote is killing the office suite

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Phil Libin at LeWeb 2014

Work has become pretty unpleasant for a lot of people, says Evernote founder Phil Libin. Many companies are stepping forwards to try and solve that. When iOS7 came out there was a movement away from skeuomorphic design – where we replicated physical ideas digitally.

We’re still doing that. We don’t need files, desktops and slides – but we haven’t questioned that for 30 years. It’s not quite the death of office apps – but PowerPoint is a lot of what’s wrong in the world today. It’s turned everything into a pitch – and that’s not what every meeting should be. Meetings shouldn’t be just about boring people until they give in. They should be discussions.

It’s not great for the presenter either – you have to take the work you’ve already done and boil it down. Word is good for writing things you’re going to print out. 10 years ago, 80% of what I wrote got printed out. It’s less than 1/10th of 1% these days.

His solution? Turn Evernote into a workspace. Communicating becomes part of the writing. The research, communication and writing can all live in the same place. You have the work, the meeting and the context all at the same time.

Augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence

Phil Libin talks his long-gone afro at LeWeb 2014

There’s a lot of companies working in making you smarter. Some are taking the parent child, where the tech does the work for you and pats you on the head like a child. Option B is the CEO with an assistant. And Option C is making you into a superhero, with powers to do everything.

Phil doesn’t want to be a child, or have an assistant – he wants to feel like he has superpowers. So, Evernote has a single-minded focus on building this supplementary brain that gives us those powers. Competition is good because it drive you harder, and there’s plenty of it in this space. But Libin thinks no-one is taking the “make big companies feel smaller” approach.

The partnership with the Wall Street Journal is not about giving you a new place for reading it – it’s about informing you as you prepare work. If you’re writing in Word, you won’t get the heads-up that there’s been a breaking news story that changes your context for that work.

The LinkedIn link allows you to connect information about people even as you’re mentioning them in notes.

One phase for all work

Evernote is trying to do away with the discreet “research, work, present” phases. The app will allow you to do it all – and stop you doing things that will make a bad presentation. It’s not necessarily for the same situation as presenting at LeWeb – it’s about having something on screen when you’re meeting with 10 people.

Focusing Evernote on this idea of a new way of working is how they feel that they can have the biggest impact on the world.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.