Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

The smartphone era has also been the age of apps. But those specialized, standalone pieces of software will soon be an anachronism, says the CEO of the popular information-management service Evernote. He predicts that as wearable computers supplant smartphones, they will displace apps, too.

In an on-stage interview Monday at the MIT Technology Review Digital Summit, Evernote’s Phil Libin said that the advantage of smart watches or other computers worn on the body is that they can instantly deliver information that is finely tuned to a particular context. For example, Google Glass might provide background on the person you’re speaking to.

But that kind of service won’t succeed if a person must remember to fire up a given app in situations in which it might be helpful, Libin said. He argued that people will instead prefer “ambient” services that constantly run in the background and then step forward as needed.

“Apps are becoming irrelevant or becoming much less important,” Libin said. “I think the killer app for this thing [wearable computing] is hyper awareness. I basically want to have a Spidey sense.”

Libin’s vision is undoubtedly shaped by the fact that Evernote sells services that could fit into the scenario he describes—they store notes and other personal information for you to call up later.

Libin also argued that the dominant business model on wearable devices will be user subscriptions—like Evernote’s—rather than ads. The reason, he said, is that as devices get more intimate—with small screens just inches from the eyes—people will cringe at advertising. How much tolerance might people have for ads on a device like Google Glass? “Really, really, none at all. Zero,” Libin said.

Libin noted, to laughter from the audience, that this idea might seem somewhat counterintuitive. The intense data-collection made possible by wearables might seem like an advertiser’s dream. But he was adamant that finely tuned, ultra-targeted ads are not really a killer application for most consumers. “I just call bullshit on that,” he said.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: Photo courtesy of Susan Kaup | MIT Technology Review

Tagged: Computing, Communications, Web, Digital Summit 2014, Evernote

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me