Evernote's acquisition of Penultimate should remind you how fragmented the tablet software market is. Are you playing it smart as you build big dependencies on tablet apps?
Evernote just acquired Cocoa Box, the maker of my favorite iPad app, the Penultimate handwriting app. That got me thinking about how, without really being completely aware of it, I've built a pretty big dependency on an iPad app for my daily work. And that's a little scary.
Since last fall, I've been using my iPad to take interview and meeting notes. (Yes, I was still taking notes using a pen and paper rather than on my computer, since I'm not a blazing typist and I find tapping keys distracting in a conversation.) Last fall, I replaced yellow legal pads with an iPad 2, the Penultimate handwriting app, and a Vivitar stylus.
I quickly grew to love this move to digital.
I used to have a small stack of legal pads around the office, now that clutter is gone. I used to spend a lot of time flipping through pages looking for a particular part of a conversation, now the Penultimate app lets me glance at an entire notebook at once to find the section of an interview or meeting notes that I need.
Before going on a trip, I used to have to think "Which notebooks do I need to bring to write on the plane?" Now I bring the iPad, so all my notes are with me.
But for too long, I wasn't very smart about backing up those notes. I let myself become dependent on two potential single points of failure: the iPad device that held the notes, and the app maker, which could go out of business and leave me with an unsupported, obsolete format. The notes weren't life-or-death for my work, since I generally tape interviews as well. Still, it would be a real setback to lose all the notes.
I'm protected a bit better these days. Penultimate has added automated Dropbox backup, which I use. So I now have two cloud vendors I depend on, but at least I have a backup if my iPad breaks, fails, or gets stolen. (Or, as is all too likely with me, I just lose it.)
But there was still that risk of Penultimate just ceasing to exist, which has been nagging at me.
So I take it as good news that Evernote acquired Penultimate. Evernote has healthy financial backing, having raised at least $150 million in venture funding, as it eyes an IPO. The company has decent prospects for being around for the long haul. For more detail on where the company is headed, see Evernote Prepares To Storm The Enterprise, including a video interview with Evernote CEO Phil Libin.
Evernote could still decide to retire my pet app at some point, but it at least has an incentive to keep customers happy and offer some way to bring old files forward. And perhaps just as importantly, Evernote has the cash to develop these apps to be better in the future.
The iPad has, in the quick span of two years, created an incredible shift in the apps that we use to do business. For ages, we've been centered on a tiny number of productivity tools, led by Microsoft Office files and Adobe PDFs. Tablets have opened a door to so many more options, and many people will stumble through that door, some as clumsily as I have.
I've spoken with a few CIOs who've set up in-house app stores, where they recommend a few tablet apps to employees, and share some advice on how to use those apps. It's a way IT might be able to build some goodwill and mobility cred with users, without a major investment. An open discussion also might reveal some risks employees are taking that IT didn't know about.
While this Evernote news points to early signs of consolidation in the tablet app market, that market will likely stay fragmented for a while yet. Employees could likely use some help from IT in sorting through the options.
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