A virtual vault for personal data

EverNote database holds your most valuable documents: It's like a cigar box for data files.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
3 min read
PALO ALTO, Calif.--EverNote has come up with a catch-all personal database for your computer aimed at helping you keep, and search for, items you don't want to lose.

Users can insert PowerPoint slides, handwritten notes from a tablet PC, photos, passwords, e-mails or fragments of Web pages into the EverNote database. The system then synchronizes so that the data is automatically replicated on all the cell phones, PCs or other devices in your personal network.

Later, if you search for a term, the database will pull up all of the documents, regardless of file format, containing that term. A single query on "Gates" on EverNote CEO Stepan Pachikov's phone produced a handwritten note, a few pictures, a few e-mails and some Web links. Consumers can also insert recorded voice messages into the database, but they can't be searched for yet.

"This is a database for everything you would like to remember," Pachikov said during an interview at the AlwaysOn conference at Stanford University. "People dream of having a photographic memory."

"This is a database for everything you would like to remember."
--Stepan Pachikov
CEO, EverNote

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is one of several new start-ups in the "Your Data Anytime" category. These companies are effectively trying to sell technology that will allow consumers to access their personal files through any device. Orb Networks, for example, sells an application that lets an individual with a cell phone tap into pictures, videos or music stored on a remote home computer.

Some venture capitalists express doubts about whether these companies--most of which have to give at least a basic version of their software to attract customers--will be able to thrive. Nonetheless, the idea is attracting attention, and many of the companies are landing funding.

EverNote differs from others in the category in that the data isn't accessed remotely. The information inside the database is replicated on each device during the automatic synchronization process. The data is altered to suit the device: hefty 5MB photos, for instance, are stored as a 53K file on a phone.

The EverNote database, however, is only designed to hold a person's most valuable documents. Users don't put everything in it: only the stuff they really want to keep. Pachikov, who once worked as a supercomputing scientist in the Soviet Union and sold a company to Silicon Graphics in 1997, had 1,061 items in his database. Orb and other services can connect consumers to the whole hard drive or a live TV feed.

So far, approximately 150,000 people have downloaded the application from the company's Web site. A premium version can be bought as well.

In the future, the company hopes to link up with cellular carriers to promote the technology. Cell phone carriers are now trying to find applications for the technological capabilities on today's phones.

EverNote, Pachikov asserts, could help turn the cameras now included in phones into something more than a consumer feature. He uses it at conferences to take pictures of people and their name tags so he can remember them later. The pictures are automatically given a time and location stamp.

"The phone is like a hand scanner," he said. "I would like to use it as a universal recorder."