In the days of yore, when print reigned supreme, one could have said that much ink is being spilled in mourning Google Reader’s upcoming demise. Much ink is also being spilled in castigating Google and hinting at a looming trust issue between users and Google. [Then again, if print was indeed reigning supreme, Reader wouldn't have existed in the first place. But, anyway.]
Many of those indulging in that wanton spilling of ink have also told Google that it can just keep its new Keep product to itself.
As I argued recently, they are wrong to fault Google for deciding to kill Reader. And they are wrong to think that Reader (which was used mostly by media types and hard core news junkies that binge-read on a daily basis…I admit I was one of them, though I’m not a media type – yet!) sets a precedent for not trusting anything that Google makes.
To be clear, as Jack Shafer said on his Reuters blog, any software – paid, unpaid or sponsored, is subject to the immutable laws of creation and destruction. Yesterday it was Google Reader, tomorrow it could be Skype and some day it might very well be Instagram’s turn at the guillotine.
But Google Keep, I think, might have strong legs and run for a very long time. And that’s not because it seems to be built decently well (albeit with room to improve). What it is about, is Google’s desire to be your constant companion when you are online and help you do whatever it is that you want to do, better, easier, faster – and find a way to monetize that moment.
So if you look at how we use our online time, broadly, we spend it on search, email, Twitter, chat, Facebook, entertainment, news and career-related stuff.
All of these things, we used to do them on our PCs a lot. But now we do them on our PCs, Tablets and our SmartPhones. With Android though, Google is certainly a key part of enough people’s experience that it is not overly worried. Perhaps…since Google may want to be wary of Samsung, as I also argued recently.
Search, for a long time, was the online “killer app”. And Google’s core business is about monetizing that experience by providing one of the very best search engines out there. Google News, which can be thought of as “Search for News”, is an extension of that model, of sorts.
Email came next. Same thing. Users spend time sending and receiving emails. So Gmail created a great way to enable that experience and make it better. And it monetized that experience. Google’s Chat client is somehow lumped with Gmail of course.
Users were watching a lot of videos online. Google Video tried to fit in, couldn’t, because YouTube was better, so Google just bought YouTube and by all accounts, is increasingly successful in monetizing that experience. Check off the entertainment box…though streaming music and online radio are two things where Google doesn’t seem to (want to?) do much.
Social media was a big miss. Orkut, which originally launched in 2004 was successful in Brazil and India, for the most part, but never took off globally. And we all know how Facebook totally killed it in that space. Google Buzz came and went. And now we have Google+ which I still think may be part of a very interesting Google strategy. That still leaves Tweeting, which Google missed, and Twitter is so far ahead that it is likely nearly impossible to wage a 140 character war against it…and sadly, it’s one attempt to real-time search Tweets died in 2011.
LinkedIn, again, seems to have an increasingly strong lock on all-things-career. So Google will have to sit that one out. For now at least.
And that brings us to hitherto unglamorous “note taking”.
What Evernote has shown to world is that this is indeed another “killer app” that syncs across various platforms and provides for a very sticky and useful experience. This is attested to by 50 million users around the world, of which nearly a third are in the US. With those numbers growing by 100,000 users a day, Evernote controls this market. 1.4 million of those are also paying customers (each of them pays either $5 a month or $45 a year).
But, for Google, it’s not about the money (which is why I don’t think it will ever charge users for Keep or roll it into its Google Apps suite). Instead, for Google, it is about not being there, helping create and capture value – when users are creating data, archiving it and presumably returning to it repeatedly and throughout the day. And horror of horrors, searching through it!
OK, that was a bit dramatic…but the reason Google Keep is (should be) so important is because Evernote has captured a healthy marketshare, momentum and media attention in a recurring, high-importance online experience market .
And that early mover advantage means that as more and more of users’ data is stored within Evernote, the less they will be inclined to migrate away to another platform in the future. And Google realizes that. It realizes that it is a bit late to this game. So, many of those users are probably lost to it for the foreseeable future. But it also knows that better late than never is a good strategy too.
So in a move that should remind everyone of Microsoft’s second or third-to-market + catchup strategy in the past, Google will also work very hard to catch up and slow down Evernote’s growth in the near term and try as hard as it can, to encourage Evernote user defections in the medium to long-term. We can certainly expect some serious enhancements and integrations with a variety of other Google services that already enjoy the first mover advantage, as Keep keeps evolving.
Google can’t afford to do otherwise and let its’ users use yet another service for part of their online lives.