OneNote’s Transition To Being Free Was A Year In The Making

Microsoft released a OneNote client for OS X and made the application free across all five large mobile and desktop operating systems. The OS X app was a hit, spiking to the top of the Mac App Store and collecting a high rating.

It’s been an oddly positive moment for Microsoft.

Basking in this interval’s good press, the company’s OneNote team took to Reddit for an celebratory explanatory AMA session. You can find the full thing here, but the gist is as follows: OneNote for Mac, and the larger Microsoft OneNote strategy, are popular. Moments like this are what Microsoft needs in constant succession.

(The OneNote team’s adorkable verification clip is worth watching if you want to spit coffee on your screen.)

Newly crowned Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got name-checked during the session, regarding a question about whether the company has “plans to market OneNote to students or schools.” A OneNote team member was enthusiastic:

This is Ari. As the new product marketer on OneNote, I can answer a strong YES to [that question.] We have a lot of investment from our new CEO in the student audience, with OneNote being one great example of where we can make a difference in their lives.

So it would appear that Nadella isn’t giving up on the consumer market.

The move to make OneNote a free experience on every major platform raised eyes. Why would Microsoft give away a product that it sold as part of Office? This is Microsoft we are talking about. The answer as far as I can tell is that Microsoft is breaking its non-Windows toolsets out of a purely Windows mindset in steps. Office for iPad will follow suit. In the case of OneNote, it had some free, and some paid, versions. Making a free build-out for each platform was reasonable.

And OneNote sits on top of OneDrive, which Microsoft would like it very much if you would use.

Here’s the OneNote team on the decision to go free now:

We’ve actually been planning it for a while. As we released apps for more platforms we knew we wanted to always have a free version available for people so there was no barrier to getting started with and using OneNote. It took a while to work out the details for all platforms, what features we still want to charge for (we are still in the business of making money), and work on the actual releases, and we wanted to announce that plan along with releasing lots of cool stuff like we did on Monday. We’ve been planning it for over a year.

So, this is not a massive shift in Microsoft thinking by Nadella in his first few weeks in the top seat.

How long will the apps stay free? Microsoft had a simple answer: “Forever!”