Reports vary but essentially Pebble has been bleeding for some time and the company once valued at more than US$1 billion will be sold piecemeal to Fitbit for about US$40 million.
For that, it gets Pebble’s brand, watch operating system, e-paper tech, apps, and cloud services. About 40% of its staff, mainly engineers and testers, will be offered jobs at Fitbit.
This is the end of Pebble as we know it. Its offices will close, support will cease, warranty is gone*, and undelivered goods like the new Time 2, Round, and Core bought via Kickstarter will be refunded in March 2017. The Kickstarter goal of US$1 million in pre-sales was exceeded 12.8 times!
The question is why this iconic, almost first to market brand could not make it in the smartwatch market.
IDC and others have reported a major gulf in the market with fitness bands thriving, and smartwatches in a death spiral – Apple is down 71% year on year. iTWire has the IDC report here.
iTWire mentioned Fitbit’s potential takeover of Pebble, and since then the deal has become clearer – it was to have been a bailout but the numbers did not add up. At best, we may see a Pebble sub-brand emerge under Fitbit, but more likely we will see more of Pebble’s tech appear in future Fitbits.
Fitness trackers sell better than smartwatches because they are cheaper and solve a clearly-defined problem. Interestingly, competition in the smartwatch space may be waning, with major manufacturers saying they will hold off investing until the category matures.
*Note: that under Australian Consumer Law, Pebble buyers may have recourse to a refund of any faulty goods if they bought the device from a “third-party retailer” and not Pebble directly.