Phil Libin

Evernote CEO: Apps will become obsolete

April 10, 2014: 3:15 PM ET

Smart devices and wearables are the future, and they won't run on apps, Libin says.


"Apps as a concept don't make a whole lot of sense anymore," says Phil Libin, CEO of the productivity app maker Evernote.

FORTUNE -- Phil Libin, CEO of the popular productivity app company Evernote, has an issue with the phrase "the Internet of Things."

It has come to refer to any device, appliance, wearable, or object that's connected to the Internet, and Libin thinks that's just awful. In his words, it's "the worst and most obnoxious name ever." His comments were made from the stage at F.ounders, an annual private gathering of tech company leaders held at the NASDAQ Stock Market in New York Thursday.

The reason for his ire? He predicts the Internet of Things, or connected devices, or whatever you want to call it, will be huge. Connecting devices is a "super-important idea," he said, but it's being undermined by a terrible name. (Heartbleed, on the other hand, has done a much better job with its branding, he joked.)

The Internet of Things will be so huge, Libin said, that it will eventually make apps obsolete (yes, even Evernote, which has been among the top 25 productivity apps in Apple's App Store for the past four years).

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"Apps as a concept don't make a whole lot of sense anymore," Libin said. "They don't make sense on your TV, or on your watch."

That's because session length for wearables will shrink. We won't have time for apps, he said.

Session length shrinks each time we move to a smaller, faster, more convenient computing system. We went from desktop computers to laptops, and then to smartphones and tablets, and now to wearables and connected devices. We use desktop computers, or laptops, for two to three hours, and we use smartphones for two or three minutes at a time, 50 times a day. On computers with long session lengths it makes sense to use powerful software with files and databases. On phones, it makes more sense to use apps for our two-minute interactions.

But when we move to wearables, session length will drop from two minutes to two seconds, Libin said. The challenge will be figuring out how to make someone productive for one second at a time, 1,000 times a day. Apps are irrelevant in the world of wearables, because "when any given interaction is a second long, you definitely don't have time to think about apps," Libin said. "It has to be more of a service."

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It's a design challenge that any app maker will need to figure out if they agree with Libin that wearable computing and the Internet of Things will eventually overtake mobile.

"Evernote and other companies that make this transition will have to be a service that's just there," he said. "The right design in augmented intelligence is stuff you don't notice. It just sort of works."

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