Mere days after rumors began to percolate through the internet, Google has confirmed that it’s acquiring wearable maker Fitbit. According to Fitbit, the sale price values the company at $7.35 per share for a total of $2.1 billion. While Google’s hardware chief Rick Osterloh says this is an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS, it could just as easily be a sign that Wear OS is doomed.
While it’s technically Alphabet that’s buying Fitbit, the wearable company will become part of Google. So, it’ll be a Nest-like situation. Osterloh will oversee Fitbit operations right from the start, whereas Nest initially operated under the Alphabet umbrella as an independent company.
One thing we can say for sure is that Google’s acquisition of Fitbit will finally lead to a Google smartwatch. Osterloh specifically calls out plans for a “Made by Google” wearable. However, it’s unclear how Google will reconcile its Wear OS platform with Fitbit’s. Current Fitbit devices come in various flavors ranging from basic fitness trackers to full-featured smartwatches. Even Fitbit’s top-of-the-line smartwatches like the Versa 2 have fewer features than Wear OS. However, they also work better. Wear OS is hamstrung by mediocre hardware and a lack of OEM partnerships — Fossil is the only company making Wear OS devices in appreciable numbers anymore.
Fitbit fills an important gap in Google’s wearable efforts. While Wear OS offers tight integration with services like Google Fit, fitness tracking in Fit is rudimentary at best. On the other hand, Fitbit’s fitness tracking and exercise detection is class-leading. It will almost certainly integrate that technology with Google Fit. While Osterloh professed Google’s dedication to Wear OS, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Google heavily redesign the platform with technology it acquires from Fitbit. Whether it starts with an Android base or Fitbit OS as the base for future smartwatches is unknown at this point.
As for any personal health data you have stored in Fitbit, you still have full control over that. Per Fitbit’s usage policy, your personal data will never be used in Google ads after the merger. You can, of course, just delete your Fitbit data if you don’t trust Google with it.
The deal is expected to close in 2020 after the usual regulatory approvals. Neither firm expects much pushback. A Pixel watch probably isn’t in the cards for 2020, but it could happen in 2021.
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