Weekly Update

Evernote signs Telefonica as part of a smart strategy

Last week Evernote announced a new partnership with Telefonica, a global giant with 247 million subscribers worldwide. The partnership is starting in Brazil, where Telefonica has 80 million subscribers. Evernote is offering Telefonica Vivo customers an entire year of Evernote Premium. When they sign up — by downloading an Evernote app for iOS or Android and logging on — they get the free upgrade, which provides higher upload limit (1 GB) and offline access to notes and notebooks.

Evernote is positioned as a personal organization tool, allowing users to save notes, images, and files. But in the past year the company has made a push toward the business context with Evernote Business, and it is in effect now a competitor to file-sync-and-share platforms, document-management solutions, and other productivity tools. For example, a recent announcement describes a partnership and integration with UberConference that allows the sharing of Evernote documents in Uberconference calls and the automatic saving of a summary of the call — who attended, how long it lasted, what files were shared, and a recording of the call — back into Evernote.

Evernote has been aggressively making deals worldwide with cell companies, like Taiwan Mobile, Deutsche Telkom, and DOCOMO, so Telefonica is just the most recent and perhaps the largest to date.

Evernote is playing a smart strategy. The center of gravity in today’s world of work has moved quickly onto our proximal devices (the poorly named “mobile” devices we always have with us, which are used 60 percent of the time in the home and the office). Smartphones and always-connected tablets are the wavefront of this change, and getting Evernote onto those devices is the yellow brick road to building an indomitable lead in the “saving-sharing” war against some truly formidable competitors: Google, Apple, Microsoft, (perhaps soon) Amazon, Dropbox, and Box.

What is this war?

Today all work is personal. The center of each person’s work is defined by their own work practices and tools. The is the core rationale for BYOD: People want to use the devices they already know, and they want to apply tools they already understand — and which are already helping them get things done — to the tasks at work. Some of those tasks are, again, personal and may involve little or no sharing. Imagine a marketing lead, Bette, collecting a bunch of screen shots of competitors web sites to help in a new web redesign. She’s been using Evernote as a part of her personal and professional life — making to-do lists and saving images of business cards, for example. So it seems obvious, easy, and fast to apply the same tool in a business context. Bette might decide to share that Evernote notebook with her colleagues, and the viral spread happens: Several of those folks download Evernote to their phones later that week.

Google is attacking this same territory from a different angle, by providing Drive’s storage and document editing in the cloud and pretty soon in the Chrome browser (see “Google pushes new version of QuickOffice on Chrome dev channel“). And Apple is attempting to catch up with Google with the rethought iCloud.

Dropbox and Box are coming in from the file-sync-and-share direction, but ultimately they are fighting for the same territory.

Amazon has no dog in this fight, but if CEO Jeff Bezos makes good on the rumors of an Amazon phone, he could build out a file-sync-and-share service at a foundational level — like today’s syncing books and metadata on Kindle — and could be immediately a major player.

Microsoft’s Office 365 and Sharepoint start with a huge legacy in business, and they are playing defense against these new upstarts.

So the war is foundational. We are just transitioning from the early web era, where we browsed webpages but edited documents on our desktop, and shared those documents by sending them in emails or via on-premise LAN intranets. Today’s model fixes the bad design inherent in that patchwork architecture.

The central breakthrough is file sync-and-share across our own devices and with others. Instead of push-based coordination of work, we’re moving to pull. I don’t have to explicitly remember to update the file on my Mac when I edit it on my tablet. By using Dropbox I am in essence following myself: The me on the Mac follows the me on my tablet, and vice versa. The following is a bit more obvious when sharing with others, but the core benefit lines up with the benefits of pull-based following (versus push-based broadcast) in social networking apps.

Whichever company gets out ahead of the others in this race for file sync-and-share will force the others to a sideline position.

I am not saying that Evernote has the inside lane in this race, but lining up all the cell phone companies in the world as partners is not a bad strategy at all.