Fitbit Eyes Smartwatch Market With Pebble Acquisition

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SAN FRANCISCO, United States — Connected health and fitness brand Fitbit has confirmed the acquisition of Pebble, as it narrows its focus on the smartwatch market.

Fitbit says the acquisition will facilitate the faster delivery of new products, features and functionality while introducing speed and efficiencies to develop more advanced devices.

“With basic wearables getting smarter and smartwatches adding health and fitness capabilities, we see an opportunity to build on our strengths and extend our leadership position in the wearables category,” said James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit.

“With this acquisition, we’re well positioned to accelerate the expansion of our platform and ecosystem to make Fitbit a vital part of daily life for a wider set of consumers, as well as build the tools healthcare providers, insurers and employers need to more meaningfully integrate wearable technology into preventative and chronic care.”

For Pebble, the decision to sell doesn’t come as a surprise. According to TechCrunch, the acquisition which is rumoured to have cost between $34 and $40M – is a figure that “barely” covers the startup’s debts.

However, in publishing an official confirmation of the acquisition on a blog post, Eric Migicovsky, Pebble founder and CEO, noted how hard the decision had been to shut down the company and no longer manufacture Pebble devices, despite the company’s bleak outlook.

“While dissolving Pebble as you know today is difficult, I am happy to announce that many members of Team Pebble will be joining the Fitbit family to continue their work on wearable software platforms,” he added.

As an early entrant in the category, Pebble had raised over $15M since launching in 2009. Despite completing one of the highest backed crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter, its failure to succeed is a stark reminder that even with record-breaking backing, for startups, crowdfunding doesn’t equal sustainability.

In general, the smartwatch market has also been suffering. A state that isn’t predicted to change anytime soon, according to a recent report from the International Data Corporation. But that doesn’t seem to be worrying Park.

Just because the smartwatch category isn’t working now doesn’t mean it can’t in the future with a “different approach,” the Fitbit CEO told The Verge.

“I draw an analogy with our own history at Fitbit,” he added. “The closest device you could draw a comparison to [when we started]was a pedometer. And we came up with a radical new concept around activity trackers and really transformed that market, and grew it into something of a size that people couldn’t imagine.”

Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team, echoes Park’s optimism. “Smart wearables have been down in recent quarters, but clearly not out,” he notes.

Like Park, Llamas argues that as user tastes change, so will their needs, creating opportunities for smart wearables with multi-functionality and third-party applications, both for consumers and business users.

“To get there, we need to see more intuitive user interfaces, seamless user experiences, standalone connectivity, and applications that go beyond health and fitness and into personal and professional productivity,” he adds.

If Fitbit can master all of that, then perhaps it can turn the market around.

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