Evernote Evolves Slowly at the Evernote Trunk Conference

By Nathaniel Mott , written on August 24, 2012

From The News Desk

Fun fact: elephants are evolving to lose their tusks, an important tool that has served them well for centuries, because poachers have weeded out many of the elephants that would pass along the tusk-providing gene.

At the Evernote Trunk Conference today, CEO Phil Libin announced a number of new features and discussed where Evernote as a company is going. The service is poised to introduce a new product for businesses, announced an update to its Clearly Web reader and saver, and introduced a new notebook, courtesy of Moleskine. As real-world elephants are evolving to survive, Evernote is evolving to maintain its lead as the primary "outboard brain" service.

Launching this December, Evernote Business is Evernote's first big play for the enterprise market. The service has a number of features designed specifically for large organizations – most of them related to billing and managing multiple accounts – but otherwise functions similarly to a standard Premium membership. Evernote has made it easy for Business users to keep their personal notebooks separate from their Business accounts, which could allow the service to become users' go-to choice for anything they need to remember for later. Need to remember that for work? Good! Want to add a grocery list so you don't forget again? Aces. We've got you covered.

Evernote Clearly, the company's Google Chrome extension that presents a Web page's text in a clean, ad-free view, has also been updated. Clearly now displays notes related to the article a user is viewing, but the main attraction is a new highlighting feature and integration with Sony's new eReader. The ability to highlight the most pertinent or profound part of a Website seems mundane – and, in a sense, it is – but this feature will almost definitely come in handy for research.

Integrating with Sony's latest eReader tablet is also a huge get for the company. No read-later service has been officially built into an ereader, and Evernote has managed to do this almost as an afterthought. It would be more impressive if Amazon was the one that added Evernote to its Kindle (most people don't associate "ereader" with Sony), but it's a start.

In the end, neither Evernote Business nor Evernote Clearly were the biggest announcements, at least in terms of coverage, to come from the Evernote Trunk Conference. That honor belongs to the Evernote Smart Notebook, a journal that Evernote created in partnership with Moleskine. Besides being every hipster's wet dream – an Evernote-enabled Moleskine is just one Hemingway quote and a PBR away from being a distillation of the hipster culture's very essence – the Smart Notebook is actually an interesting bit of not-quite-tech.

The Smart Notebook gets most of its "cool" factor from the Smart Stickers that come with the product. Users can place a sticker next to the note that they'd like to scan into Evernote, and the app will automatically add a tag next to the pictured text. Assuming that the text works well and that Evernote develops the technology further, it's not hard to imagine being able to scan an item from, say, a subway map and have each scan placed in its own little notebook. That functionality isn't available today, but the Smart Stickers could be the first step towards that future.

Hipsters aren't the only ones that will be excited by the Evernote-Moleskine partnership. Given Evernote's emphasis on slow growth and the relatively slow pace at which the company rolls out new features, it's safe to assume that Evernote created the Smart Notebook for a reason: people will use it. Much like the SmartThings platform, which we covered yesterday, this partnership represents a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. People may always prefer to write in a physical notebook, but that doesn't mean they can't enjoy the power of the Evernote platform while they're doing it.

With each of those product changes and announcements made today, Evernote has begun the evolution process that will turn the company into the 100-year company that Libin wants it to be. That doesn't mean, however, that Evernote is rushing the process, especially when it comes to going public.

Long-rumored to be preparing for an IPO, Libin said at the conference that the company will stay "private as long as [it] can," according to Bloomberg. The site reported that Evernote would wait to go public until "at least" 2015, with Libin citing Facebook's IPO as a contributing factor. Facebook's IPO "reinforces the approach of IPO slowly," he said.

Ultimately, today's conference is setting the stage for continued improvements to Evernote's service. Evernote Business will open a new, streamlined revenue stream for the company, and the Smart Notebook marks the company's first genuine physical product. The real-world elephants that the service owes its logo to may be evolving rapidly to lose its tusks, but Evernote has chosen to take a slower route and gain some.