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Evernote's Phil Libin Has Come to Bury Microsoft Office, Not Praise It

Evernote's boss says the company is shifting to focus more on workers and their everyday tasks.

What about OneNote?

It’s a question that Evernote CEO Phil Libin gets asked all the time, especially after Microsoft made the note-taking app free earlier this year. But, Libin says, it’s the wrong question.

Libin makes no bones about having Microsoft in his sights, but it is Office he wants to dethrone, not OneNote.

The world, he said, would be a better place if OneNote were popular. Instead, workers spend their time in programs like Word and Outlook, which he says are relics that should be placed in the Recycle Bin.

He saves his sharpest words for PowerPoint, which he says has turned every meeting into a pitch rather than an intellectual discussion — it’s not about trying to make people smarter, it’s about making people agree with you.

“It just dumbs everything down,” he said. “The cognitive style of it is wrong. It’s corrupt.”

The only part of the Office suite Libin said is actually good software is Excel. Even there, though, he said it is more often used for making lists than for doing the kinds of financial modeling that Excel is actually good at.

Libin’s sharp words for Microsoft come as Evernote itself is in the midst of a transition, aiming to shift from a consumer tool also used by businesses into one with workers in mind.

“We’ve definitely focused the company on work — on your life’s work,” Libin said. “We want to own the workspace. … Our goal is very much to make the general solution for modern busy people.”

Doing that means expanding Evernote, particularly on the communications front. Its current communications tools, Libin admits, are more rudimentary than functional. Although there are tens of millions of shared notebooks today, only one in ten Evernote customers is using the product collaboratively at least once per month.

“It’s kind of a marginal use case,” Libin said. “That’s really something that should be closer to 50 percent.”

Evernote is also looking at new ways to fund its efforts. The company is preparing to hike the fees for the first time for the premium version of its service, currently priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Existing paid customers won’t see their rates go up, Libin promised.

As part of its shift toward a workplace focus, Libin said he made the decision to kill several projects that would have been more consumer-oriented, including Evernote Baby, a tool for new parents.

Libin said he personally loved the product, but it just didn’t fit with the new Evernote. The company will also stop investing in existing consumer products, including Evernote Food.

One area where Libin isn’t pulling back is Evernote’s storefront, which sells things such as limited-edition backpacks and a custom scanner. Earlier this week, the company added a shop in China and a new collection of wood desk accessories.

The profit margins are great, Libin said, and over half of the Evernote market customers are people who have never paid the company.

Plus, buyers are stocking up on the styli, scanners and socks that the company offers for sale.

“Almost everything sells out all the time,” Libin said.

This article originally appeared on

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