Evernote may have started as an organization tool, but it's busily evolving itself into a tool for organizations--if it can find ways to stand out from the burly crowd of established players.
Enter Work Chat, a new capability that Evernote announced at its Evernote Conference in San Francisco on Thursday and will add to its various platforms in the near future. Work Chat saves workers from clicking over to another window in an email application by replacing it with another window in a chat application.
The difference, Evernote claims, is immediacy: Chats can and should be returned immediately, while emails pile up over time. And there's an extra-cost feature: Context, which pulls in data from varied sources to paint the bigger picture around what you're sharing.
Evernote hopes Work Chat and Context will enhance collaboration by adding a sense of immediacy. A Work Chat feature called Presence, for instance, will indicate when a shared note is being read by the recipient, via an icon that will appear on top of the note. Also in Work Chat's spirit of collaboration, Evernote has activated read/write sharing of single notes and notebooks for all users.
Why this matters: Each and every web service profits from attracting and keeping users within its fold. If Evernote can convince business users to abandon email and other productivity suites in favor of its own in-app chat, the company can continue to grow and add services. It remains to be seen whether these new collaboration tools will upsell users to Evernote Premium--or just be annoyances that users turn off.
From organization tool to tool for organizations
"When we decided to introduce the concept of 'people' into Evernote, we knew that the best decisions come from a combination of communication and awareness--an ambient knowledge of what your team is working on. It's like popping your head over your monitor to ask what your neighbor is up to," Andrew Sinkov, vice president of marketing at Evernote, wrote in a blog post.
Here's the upsell part: Only users who sign up for Evernote Premium will have access to Context, a way of mining the Internet for additional information about topics at hand. Send a note about the California drought, for example, and Context might pull up related news stories from The Wall Street Journal and other publications.
Context will also pull old archived notes, access notebooks owned by colleagues and even suggest fellow employees to consult. Mentioning a person will trigger Context to consult LinkedIn, according to Evernote.
The problem is that Context reproduces, to some extent, the functions that a number of other services attempt to provide. Google provides both chat and email services, and combined with a service like Rapportive, there's some contextual information as well. Some CRM and sales tools also try to supply contextual information. Microsoft's recent Delve tool collates information you need to know, including coworkers who might have something to contribute.
And let's face it: even real-time chats like Facebook Messenger are just another form of email--you simply see the messages as they appear, without having to "open" them. In that sense, Work Chat is nothing new.
But do all of them do it as easily and seamlessly as Evernote? That's the make-or-break question for the new service.