OneNote is the crown jewel of Microsoft Office, and it's the poster-child for Microsoft's strategy of embracing all platforms. Microsoft has been rolling out new versions and expanding the capabilities of existing versions of OneNote for months, including a slew of new features for iOS and Mac OS X users.
Mary Jo Foley reported on the announcement from Microsoft and shared a list of the new and enhanced features for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac versions of OneNote. The changes don't raise the bar or add anything groundbreaking for OneNote in general, but they do bring the iOS and Mac OneNote experience more in line with the native Windows and Windows Phone experience. In other words, the new features Microsoft unveiled help to ensure a more consistent experience for all users, regardless of which platform or device they choose.
As an avid user of OneNote, and someone who uses it across a multitude of platforms and devices, I'm excited about the new features. I love OneNote, and I appreciate that it's available on different platforms and devices, but the gap in capabilities from one version to the next can be confusing and frustrating at times.
There are obvious limitations in some scenarios — you can do things on a full-size PC that might not be practical on a smartphone. There are also reasons Microsoft may reserve certain advanced features for paid Office 365 customers as an added value rather than incorporating them into every version of OneNote. However, most of the functionality of OneNote should exist across all versions, and it should work the same way.
That is a crucial element of Microsoft's new direction, and it will be a key factor in Microsoft's success moving forward. There is a shift underway to move from the client / server, Windows-centric world to the new mobile first, cloud first world where businesses and consumers alike use an array of operating systems and devices but continue to use Microsoft tools no matter where or how they are getting things done.
Microsoft's goal used to be simply to drive sales of the Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office productivity suite. It was a symbiotic relationship where each was a "carrot" for the other. If you wanted to use Microsoft Office, you would use the Windows operating system — and if you used the Windows operating system, you would choose the Office productivity suite.
That goal has changed. The new goal is to ensure that businesses and consumers continue to rely on Microsoft tools, regardless of whether they choose a Windows PC or not. OneNote is a great ambassador for that goal, because the application is exceptionally flexible and useful.
The ubiquitous availability of OneNote means that anyone and everyone can use it — and if they do, they'll hopefully get tied in to the broader Microsoft ecosystem as well. If people embrace OneNote, then perhaps they'll also start to depend on OneDrive. If they truly rely on OneNote, then perhaps they'll have an incentive to subscribe to Office 365 to unlock access to some of the premium features.
If you're an iPhone, iPad, or Mac user who uses OneNote, then you'll appreciate the new features and capabilities. Even if you're not, though, this news is still exciting, because it illustrates how Microsoft has positioned OneNote as the default app people need. It also shows how Microsoft is using OneNote to expand the horizons and embrace the new mobile first / cloud first paradigm.
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Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.