Evernote CEO attacks PowerPoint, unveils presentation alternative

Evernote Business is also getting a new LinkedIn-like dashboard, dubbed 'Context.'
Written by Rachel King, Contributor
Image: James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO---Evernote's goal isn't really about eliminating paper, but rather establishing itself as a digital workspace for all life's needs.

At the company's EC4 developer summit on Thursday, Evernote CEO Phil Libin outlined four key elements behind the productivity platform: writing, collecting, finding (i.e. search), and presenting.

Evernote stands at more than 100 million users worldwide -- only a quarter of which are based in the United States and Canada. Libin hasn't shied away from revealing bigger goals in the past, admitting desires for Facebook-like numbers of more than a billion.

Libin highlighted approximately 70 percent of its userbase utlilizes Evernote for "work," which he clarified doesn't always mean people sitting behind a desk in an office.

"It means people are using Evernote to do the best work of their lives -- to do what's important to them," Libin reflected. "These are the users we want."

To answer these needs, Evernote unveiled a number of upgrades and additions to its cloud notetaking and collaboration service, from a spruced-up web client to upgrades for the most requested feature on mobile, which Libin identified as web clipping.

The new Evernote web client is available starting today as an opt-in feature.

"The old client is still there because we were too afraid to get rid of it," Libin quipped to some laughter from the audience.

Libin also attacked some legacy software products, most notably PowerPoint, describing the stalwart Microsoft presentation app as "hostile" to audiences and "setting us back cognitively."

Evernote's new presentation mode (video here) was unveiled as a counter to this model, sporting a user interface resting heavily on a mixture of white space, high-resolution photography and minimal text.

Rolling out for desktop and mobile next month, Evernote presentations can be shared and edited much like notes for collaboration ahead of a meeting or reference later. For Evernote Business users, the brand is also stocking up on industry connections to solidify its spot in the workplace.

"This has never been done before," Libin insisted. "This is the way communications should be."

That includes expanding its existing relationship with Salesforce.com as well as forging new deals with soon-to-be SAP subsidiary and travel expense management platform Concur, Ping Identity, and Smartsheet for project management. All integrations are ready for use immediately.

Libin has repeatedly spoken towards Evernote's interests in smart, connected devices (i.e. wearables), but the software platform itself is aiming to smarter itself through augmented intelligence.

For example, Evernote Business will be updated (on an opt-in basis) to a more LinkedIn-like dashboard next month. Dubbed Context, this includes suggested reads based on collaborations with respective colleagues as well as topics trending in a user's given workplace and network.

But Context isn't meant to serve as a replacement for LinkedIn. Rather, it marks yet another social enterprise connection for Evernote being that much of this information will be pulled in from LinkedIn.

Context will also be stocked with business news content from a melange of tech news outlets, led by a collaboration with Dow Jones. Evernote Premium and Business users will get full access to Wall Street Journal articles. In return, WSJ subscribers will get a year of Evernote Premium. 

Evernote is infusing augmented intelligence elsewhere on the platform, including suggesting relevant users for one-click single note sharing in real-time. Evernote is also installing a real-time chat feature, named Work Chat, aesthetically reminscent of Facebook's bouncing Chat Heads.

Libin summed up that behind this familiar method of knowing who has access to what content when was the idea to recreate the feeling of being at a startup.

"There's something really magical that happens when you're 10 or 20 people, you're all sitting in the same room, and working 20 hours day," Libin postulated. "You get this clarity. You know what other people are working on."

Libin posited Work Chat, also rolling out next month, offers this "ambient feeling of knowing what everyone is working on feeds productivity."

"This has never been done before," Libin insisted. "This is the way communications should be."

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