You can’t win the enterprise cloud without a rich suite of productivity apps. While no one knows if this will prove to be the key differentiator, Amazon, Google and Microsoft are acting as if it’s written into their playbooks. 

Keeping Up With the Joneses

Consider Amazon Web Services' announcement earlier this week that WorkMail, its email and calendaring app, was generally available. It compliments AWS WorkDocs (formerly Zocalo) and Amazon Workspaces.

Microsoft, for its part, announced a new partnership with Harman to bring Office 365 to automobile dashboards. It’s worth noting, too, that over the last 18 months Microsoft has acquired more than half a dozen young productivity apps including Sunrise, Wunderlist, LiveLoop and Equivio among others. 

Not to be left out, Google bought Bebop and hired VMware co-founder Diane Greene to run Google Cloud, its cloud business which includes Google for Work and productivity apps like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides and Google Notes.

So is it that big a leap to believe that Google acquired popular note-taking app, Circus Ponies? Especially when the landing page on its website looks like this:

circus ponies homepage 1/7/16

VentureBeat swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker, as did Macworld — but its since changed its headline from “Google Buys Up — and Shuts Down — App Developer Circus Ponies” to “App Developer Circus Ponies Calls it Quits.” A few smaller sites like ValueWalk and Android Headlines took the bait too. Crunchbase noted that Circus Ponies had been acquired, but not by whom.

J is for Joke?

A link from the Circus Ponies site leads to what could be mistaken as an Alphabet-owned Circus Ponies site (CircusPonies.xyz). At first glance it’s convincing, but within seconds it becomes just too clever.

First off the “C is for Circus Ponies” headline on the site hints at the idea that Alphabet will own/name its products around each letter of the alphabet. Cute, but not likely. And even if that were to be the case, wouldn’t Chrome claim “C”?

The second red bell is a zinger that’s funny, but not Google-like. Here’s what it says:

“Microsoft cloned NoteBook in the early 2000s to create the craptacular OneNote.”

And finally there’s a user abandonment issue that just isn’t cool. Circus Ponies’ website indicates:

“If you need a copy of NoteBook 4.0 (3.x and earlier don’t run on OS X El Capitan) or need technical support, you can try sending an e-mail to support@circusponies.com. There's a chance someone will respond but no guarantees.can try sending an e-mail to support@circusponies.com. There's a chance someone will respond but no guarantees.”

It’s highly unlikely that Google would do that. Not only does it leave customers in a bad place, but user acquisition isn’t cheap.

And that rings an even a louder bell. If Alphabet, Google, whatever you want to call it, bought Circus Ponies for NoteBook, why? Couldn’t it just add the missing features into Google Notes? If Google was interested in Circus Ponies’ users, it would have rolled out the red carpet, or provided a hoverboard that didn't explode or something like that. 

A flat out abandonment? No way.

So, Did Google Buy Circus Ponies?

We asked Google the question. “Sounds like someone having fun on a website,” is what its spokesperson called and told us. 

Let’s hope that that’s the case. We’re talking about the “fun” part here. After all, the team at Circus Ponies spent more than 13 years creating what was, by almost all accounts, a great product — fun, useful and beautiful — all at the same time. According to most of the reviews that we’ve read, it’s every bit as good, or better, as anything Microsoft, Google or Amazon has to offer.

Maybe one of the cloud giants can turn the joke into the truth by buying it, even if it’s only for a few dollars. What say you Marc Benioff, Ginni Rommety, Diane Greene? Sometimes the little guys need lifting.