Fitbit Acquires Pebble

Thursday, 8 December 2016

So the news is out: Fitbit is acquiring Pebble. Quite a few people have been asking about this, given that I was part of Pebble’s initial Kickstarter and my Product School project, proposing Fitbit developing 3rd party support on their Blaze smartwatch.

Personally, I think this is the smartest move for both companies – in fact, I advocated this as the best solution during my final presentation in Product School. It just makes sense: Pebble honestly had no place to go on their own as they got squeezed by the big players; Fitbit desperately needs a better smartwatch roadmap than the (seemingly shortsighted) one they’ve got, as they too get squeezed.

Starting a third-party platform is no joke, especially as competing platforms have already gotten the drop on you (even if they’re contending with their own challenges with the form factor). Which isn’t to say that acquisition integrations are a cakewalk either. Beyond the usual corporate acquisition headaches, you’ve got to contend with how to blend the two competing product lines in the best possible way and not lose that third-party developer community along the way.

Of course I’m not privy to any inside knowledge, but doing a little digging provides some additional insight into how things are likely going to shake out. The latest post on Pebble’s Developer Blog has this to add to the conversation:

  • Pebble expects no future software development on existing Pebble firmware.
  • Existing services for developers will continue to run for the foreseeable future but will be eventually phased out, “providing the ability for the community to take over, where possible.”

…and yet, “Third-party Pebble developers have a massive opportunity to drive how a Fitbit developer ecosystem will take shape.” So it’s pretty clear that Fitbit is being smart about this acquisition, but I’m perplexed why they’re not going to keep the existing services going indefinitely (or, at least, why they’re not avoiding saying anything about EOL plans). If anything, this might lead one to suspect that Fitbit might be planning to narrow down platform so that it hews closer to the niche-ness of the Blaze – which doesn’t make much sense.

In any event, it will be interesting to see what unfolds. Hopefully Fitbit follows a UX fundamental that Pebble ignored