This is just embarrassing, Evernote!
Evernote posted a remarkably cool product in their blog (http://blog.evernote.com/2011/09/02/htc-tablets-and-evernote/) by HTC. Understanding that this is a major thing to me to say, it’s the first time I have seen an awesome feature in a non-iPad tablet that made me want to replace my iPad with it.
This new notebook app is a full blown Evernote client, and it allows for a super natural method of note entry. You can type in text as needed, you can scribble as needed, and you can annotate the text with scribbles when needed. You can record audio. The audio syncs with the keystrokes you type so you can very easily get audio context when you are taking notes for something. I admit, I’m not the heavy note taker that I used to be, but I would have absolutely loved to have had this when I was in school. This is a killer feature.
And Evernote should be thoroughly embarrassed that a third party had to come out with this before they did. It’s not like Evernote doesn’t know people want these features. Evernote has been anemic at coming out with all of its most requested features. We’ve been demanding rich text editing for, I don’t know, three years now? It just came out last week. I wouldn’t complain about this so much if Evernote was focusing on making their app super high performance, but it doesn’t really perform that well in that respect. They brought their Windows client up to par after realizing they needed to do a rewrite in native code instead of managed code (surely no small feat and I salute them for it) but on the Mac client it takes seconds for a new note to appear when I click the new note button. I can forgive up to a half a second or so, but 3-4 seconds is just brutal for a task like that. For comparison, Mail.app provides me with a system largely like Evernote (a large searchable library of snippets of information) and I have well north of 100,000 messages in Mail. I’ve yet to see Mail lag, even on hardware that is relatively slow (and I’m running Evernote on good hardware). If Evernote blew me away with its core functionality I wouldn’t be complaining as much because they could point to their app and say “it takes effort to get the fundamentals right, so STFU”, but in reality it is pretty mediocre execution. It’s forgivable for a young company, but Evernote is past that point.
I understand that Evernote can’t grant every user’s feature requests and they realize that too, and they tried mitigating this with Evernote Trunk, a curated collection of apps that integrate with Evernote. I usually don’t see very good integration (mostly it’s a “click a button to manually send a PDF of this to Evernote!” type of integration rather than really being baked into Evernote) and although I assume this was supposed to leave Evernote to focus on core functionality rather than loading its clients up with extra features most users don’t need, but I didn’t really see any progress being made. Usually even though I store all things I want to look up later in Evernote, the reality is that I can usually just Google something and get my answer a lot faster (for instance, yesterday I needed to find a note I made for setting the hidden flag to false for ~/Library on the Mac. I spent 2 minutes searching for terms I knew were in the note, and Evernote never found them because its search algorithm ignored it because the word didn’t start with what I was searching for. I never found it in Evernote. I googled it and found the answer in under eight seconds). On the mobile clients, performance is worse yet.
Evernote just closed a round of funding even though they have all of their last round in the bank still and despite the fact that they are still profitable. This puts them in a great position for the future, and it enables them to be around for 100 years, which is their goal. That’s an important goal for a company that wants to be relied upon by people as their second brain. I listen to what the Evernote team has to say about feedback and it is quite clear that they are aware of what people want. They are also moving in the direction that people want them to be moving in. But they’re really slow at doing it, and it occurred to me that HTC being able to make this notebook app that is a full blown Evernote client with features Evernote clients probably won’t have for years if ever in a fraction of the time it took Evernote’s team to add rich text editing to its iOS client shows that this really needs to be a wake up call for the Evernote team. But they’re oblivious to it. Instead, they’re thrilled to see a developer making these great features and truth be told, they should be. Those suckers at HTC just made Evernote an app for free, and now Evernote doesn’t have to listen to its HTC tablet users beg for months for Evernote to make a client for them.
It’s really important to keep in mind here that you don’t hear me uttering a single complaint about any of the many other note taking and information management options out there. Know why? It’s because I don’t use them at all. They’re all missing some really important feature to me that Evernote already has. Evernote may not do any of what it does well, but it does do the essential things I need it to do well enough that I don’t look elsewhere. Evernote manages to always do just enough to keep me from getting rid of it.
I guess that’s a decent strategy.