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Evernote Basic gets downgraded, but its commercial failings are now laid bare

Earlier this week, I received an email from Evernote. It seemed rather somber in tone and began with an uncharacteristic caveat. Evernote (the company), we were reminded, was committed to making its users as productive as they can be, but was equally focused on running its business “transparently”.

It then launched immediately into the meat of the reason for getting in touch:

In the coming weeks, Evernote Basic accounts will be limited to two devices, such as a computer and phone, two computers, or a phone and a tablet. You are currently over this limit, but will have at least 30 days to adjust.

“About time too,” I thought.

Others were less sympathetic with industry commentators who really should know better brandishing the free Evernote account ‘useless‘ following the changes. That’s daft. It would be useless if they’d removed the ability to add notes. It’s still the same app, just available across fewer devices.

However, the more I’ve thought about the approach Evernote has taken with this, the more disgruntled I have become.

Having been a long-time users of Evernote Basic, I’ve always felt somewhat guilty that I continue to benefit from such a fabulous piece of software without ever having handed a penny to the developers. In fact, typing that very sentence felt rather uncomfortable.

In my defense, I’ve wanted to upgrade for some time, but Evernote has, until now, suffered from a very real problem – there was simply never a compelling reason to go pro for singular users like myself. I’d regularly scan the list of additional features I’d receive if I upgraded but not one grabbed my attention.

Now, they utterly have my attention. As their email helpfully pointed out, I’ll quickly fall foul of the new device limit, and that’s a problem for me.

I’m not angered by their desire to ask users for money they undoubtedly need to be able to invest further in the product, but I am mildly pissed off by their lack of foresight. Why wasn’t the number of devices a limiting factor for Basic users from the start? It is such an obvious free tier Achilles heel that its absence until now beggars belief. Returning, cap in hand, several years later is a bit rich, to be honest.

At this moment in time, I’m undecided as to whether or not I should upgrade once the change is instigated. Apple offers a compelling alternative in the form of their native Notes app and that won’t cost me a penny, and nor is it likely to in the future.

Evernote: for years I’ve badly wanted you to deliver a better commercial model, but the way in which you’ve now done so has only outlined the failings of your original business plan. And that is a great, great shame.

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