Fitbit buys Pebble – two companies circling the drain

In a blog post and email sent out today, Pebble has confirmed that Fitbit has purchased the company’s software and intellectual property. Sources say the deal is worth a mere US$40M – a pittance in Silicon Valley dollars but it reflects the reality of the smartwatch and wearables business.

Whenever a new market emrges, it’s not the first wave of innovators that get the glory. It’s the second and third waves who learn from the mistakes fot the early market entrants, listen to the complaints of cusomers and deliver products and services that better meet the market need.

Fitbit buying Pebble is the beginning of this stage in the smartwatch and wearables market.

Pebble pretty much started the smartwatch business when they launched their first devices through Kickstarter. They were able to get enough crowdsourced funding to make their first products and eventually grow to the point where they were selling their various models through tradtional retailers. I’ve even seen them sold in Best Buy vending machines at US airports.

Fitbit, on the other hand, has made their name through activity trackers, some of which have basic notification capability.

So, on the face of it, this would seem like a smart deal for Fitbit. They get enough intellectual property, and all of Pebble’s staff, so they can elevate their activity-based platform into a serious smartwatch player, competing against the likes of Apple and others.

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I really like Fitbit’s devices. But I think people looking for a complete experience, where they have a great firness tracker, sportwatch and smartwatch, probably need more than one device. For me, the killer combination was the Fitbit Blaze and Fitbit Surge.

But the new Apple Watch Series 2 does what both those devices do in one device. And, in my opinion, it looks better as well.

For this deal between Fitbit and Pebble to work out, Fitbit will need to rethink its approach. They also need to embrace some of what Pebble was doing with more recent models where there was a focus on style as well as function.

Otherwise they will circle the same drain Pebble has just fallen through.

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