Two weeks ago during its annual bout of "spring cleaning," Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) announced the coming destruction of its popular Google Reader product, which was originally released in 2005.
Of course, as is the case with any established product with a core group of loyal users, droves of annoyed Google Reader fans took to the web to decry the search giant's decision.
It's only natural, then, for Google's official launch last week of Keep -- the company's new aptly named note-taking app -- to be met with a certain level of skepticism. After all, why in the world would anyone want to use Google's products if they can't be absolutely certain they will exist in another year?
Go ahead and tell that to the more than 1.5 million people who have already downloaded Keep from the Android app market, with more than 11,000 giving it an average rating of 4.4 out of five stars as of this writing.
With that in mind, here are two big reasons Google Keep is here to stay.
Working on products that matter
When Google powered down Reader earlier this month, it provided the following anticlimactic explanation on its official blog:
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we're pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.
You can't blame Google for putting the kibosh on a product with a dwindling user base, can you? In fact, from an investing standpoint, we should be relieved Google is further honing its focus on products which have the greatest long-term potential.
And that, my fellow Fools, is exactly where young applications like Keep come into play. You see, Google isn't afraid to change for the better, and Keep's recent introduction makes it appear as if it stands as one of those aforementioned "fewer products" into which Google is pouring its newly focused energy.
Plenty of competition
Through Keep, Android users can effectively keep track of ideas, checklists, and photos, all while simultaneously storing them in the cloud with Google Drive.
So what's the problem? Keep is entering an already crowded market of note-taking productivity apps; Apple, for one, has long included a simple notes feature in its operating systems, and Microsoft offers its competing OneNote product (though it's certainly not free) as well as a suite of online tools in Office 365. Most notably, however, is the well-established Evernote, which currently boasts more than 13 million downloads from the Android App market alone.
That, however, is one of the very reasons Google needs Keep so badly, and why the app is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Prior to Keep, Google itself had offered little in the way of task management solutions, and Keep goes a long way toward filling those gaps to make Google's comprehensive ecosystem that much stickier.
A few days ago, fellow Fool Tim Beyers also made a great point about Keep:
The trouble with Keep is that it's underpowered in glaring ways. No clipping tools. Little structure, and no tagging. No design sense. All the things that make Evernote great are lacking in Keep.
Personally, though, as a recovering software engineer, part of the allure of Google's products to me has always been their relative simplicity, and I've long admired Google's ability to successfully implement user abstraction in otherwise-complicated solutions. That said, while Keep may not have every bit of useful functionality Evernote includes, that doesn't mean Google can't later beef up the product once it better understands its growing user base.
Of course, I haven't used Evernote in any significant capacity, so maybe I just don't know what I'm missing. Even so, newbies to task-management apps like myself represent yet another reason Keep should have little trouble finding its place in the world. As a result, and in spite of the fierce competition, it's a safe bet Keep will not only be able to take market share, but should also be able to expand the existing market for apps of this kind, thanks largely to the simple fact it was created by Google.
Keep it together
So it's time to calm down, all you Google skeptics, and remember this is a company which has been around the block a time or two. In the end, whether we like it or not, the king of search is going to continue implementing its long-term strategy, and I'm convinced Keep will prove a necessary piece of Google's massive puzzle.
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