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What's New with OneNote?

What's New with OneNote?

The Microsoft OneNote team has also been busy over the last year. Some highlights:

  • OneNote has an installed base of approximately 200 million PCs at this point, based on the success of Office 2010 (and more, from OneNote 2003 and OneNote 2007). A January 2012 Microsoft press release noted that nearly 200 million licenses of Office 2010 had been sold since its release in mid-2010, and OneNote 2010 is included in every version of Office 2010. That doesn't mean that everybody who has Office 2010 is using OneNote, but the product's market penetration is significant. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the active OneNote installed base, across all releases (on Windows, Windows Phone, and iOS platforms), is around 100 million users.
  • On the financial front, to parallel the Evernote highlights in the previous section, I get the sense that the OneNote team isn't as well-funded as other Microsoft Office teams, as I rarely see OneNote-specific marketing or advertising. There are some untapped potential low-hanging fruit — relatively inexpensive things that Microsoft could do in order to advance the OneNote ecosystem, such as providing more useful resources to help foster the use of OneNote templates. No doubt Microsoft's annual investment in OneNote still dwarfs Evernote's current operating budget, in any case.
  • The OneNote ecosystem doesn't strike me as being particularly vibrant. I don't know of many OneNote-focused blogs, for example, and I've seen very few third-party offerings to complement OneNote.
  • The OneNote team added new clients for the iPad and Windows Phone in 2011. Early in 2012, Microsoft surprised many industry watchers by introducing a new OneNote Mobile for Android client (which is the subject of my next Que post). However, there are no versions of OneNote for Mac OS, Android tablets, or other widely deployed (but competitively faltering) platforms such as Blackberry. On Windows, OneNote follows the overall Microsoft Office update cycle, with new releases expected every two to three years, and no major feature additions in interim updates. "Office 15," the code name for the next major release of Office, is expected to enter a public beta test cycle during the summer of 2012. As of February 2012, Microsoft had not publicly announced any details about Office 15.
  • The browser-based OneNote Web App is an impressive piece of software engineering, with some subtly powerful features for collaboration, but I suspect that it's not widely used, and (as with the Evernote iPad app) it can't be used with iPad browser clients. I believe the different approach to web clients reflects a fundamental strategy divergence between Evernote and Microsoft. Evernote treats client apps as satellites to resources on Evernote.com, so Evernote Web is just one of many client options. Microsoft, in contrast, treats OneNote Web App (as well as OneNote for iPad, iPhone, and Windows Phone) as a satellite to OneNote 2010 running on Windows PCs.

Overall, while OneNote may not have the same level of market momentum as Evernote does, there's no question that it's a market-leading note-taking tool, and one that's often considered invaluable by its loyal users.

Let's briefly explore the OneNote for iPad interface. In Figure 4 is an example of the OneNote for iPad note viewer, using the same PC World review displayed in Figure 1.

Figure 4 OneNote for iPad note-reading view.

For this example, I used the default "Personal (Web)" OneNote notebook. In comparing Figures 1 and 4, notice that OneNote for iPad clearly has less fidelity in HTML content rendering, and it also doesn't support dynamic links.

Figure 5 uses the same web page as an example of the OneNote for iPad editing view. Unlike the Evernote for iPad app, OneNote for iPad doesn't have a modal editor; there's no need to click an icon to switch from reading mode to editing mode.

Figure 5 OneNote for iPad note-editing view.

For an overview of OneNote for iPad setting options that correspond to the Evernote setting options in Figure 3, see my earlier article "OneNote for iPad: Ample Room for Improvement."

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