Evernote Acquires Digital Handwriting App Penultimate

Evernote, the digital notebook-everywhere software solution that’s getting ready for an IPO, today announced its acquisition of popular iPad app Penultimate, which brings handwritten notebooks to Apple’s iOS-powered tablet. The specific terms of the deal, which was a combination of cash and stock, weren’t disclosed, but Evernote had plenty of money to spend (it recently raised $70 million,¬†bringing¬†its total funding to date to $166 million) and Penultimate has been a consistent performer on the App Store, with Evernote lauding it as the “fourth best-selling iTunes app of all time in the U.S.” in a press release.

The purchase brings Penultimate creator Ben Zotto into the Evernote fold, but it doesn’t spell the end of Penultimate as a standalone product. Zotto told BetaKit in an interview that Penultimate will continue to be sold for its regular price of $0.99 as a standalone app, something unusual for the traditionally freemium, SaaS-oriented Evernote.

“We decided to keep it at $0.99,” Evernote CEO Phil Libin told BetaKit regarding the pricing decision. “We kind of would like to experiment with having a paid app, that sort of gets us into different App Store listings. We want to keep it really cheap, so no one will be able to say they can’t afford to use it.”

Libin noted that the company also wants to preserve what makes Penultimate great, while also providing it with more resources to grow, and leveraging some of its technology to improve Evernote’s existing offerings. “[Penultimate] will remain a standalone application, because it’s really simple and elegant and we definitely don’t want to mess with that,” he said. “We’ll be adding a lot of features and putting more resources to work on it, too. We’ll also be putting all sorts of Penultimate handwriting technology into Evernote itself.”

Part of the plan for Penultimate involves not just improving the existing product, but also bringing it to new platforms, too. “We’re putting a team of people behind Penultimate for iOS, and bringing it to other places,” Zotto told us. When asked whether Android might be the next target for Penultimate in terms of new platforms, Libin simply said that they’ll consider anywhere they can “provide a beautiful experience” for the app.

One thing’s certain: Evernote is making smart moves when it comes to acquisition choices. In August of last year, Evernote bought Skitch, the screen capture and annotation tool by Australian duo Cris Pearson and Keith Lang. Libin says the two deals are actually very similar in terms of Evernote’s intentions.

“I see this following very closely to what we did with Skitch,” he said. “The Skitch team now is 16 or 17 people, they’re on many platforms, and there’s a lot more stuff coming out. Penultimate, in terms of the number of users, is already much bigger than Skitch was when we acquired them, and I kind of see a similar progression, where we’ll get a lot more resources behind, and we’ll just see much more rapid development.”

Aside from being great standalone apps, of course, both Skitch and Penultimate hit sweet spots in terms of the target market of Evernote as a product. This strategy of building a note-taking and memory capture empire with the help of smaller, stronger players who’ve struck chords with users should definitely help Evernote build a lasting brand.

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