Google announced earlier this week that it would buy Fitbit, the ailing manufacturer of fitness focused wearables and smart watches, for $ 2.1 billion. As technology acquisitions progress, this is small: Google is evaluating Fitbit at a price equivalent to that of budget TV maker Vizio in 2016, a company whose value largely exists in its retail distribution network.
As I said in the opening line, Fitbit is not doing well. Its shares peaked shortly after the 2015 IPO of about $ 45 a share, and even after announcing the acquisition of Google, today they are just over $ 7. This is because the latest Fitbit products are not doing well: The ambitious Versa 2 so far has been criticized almost entirely for the software it manages, while hardware does little to distinguish it significantly from manufacturers such as Samsung and Apple. And hardware is what Google is looking for, with a blog post clearly stating that the acquisition of Fitbit is linked to future Wear OS devices, which means you can probably kiss goodbye to Fitbit's unloved Smartwatch OS.
So, that means we can count on Google to use the well-known Fitbit hardware to finally give Wear OS the horsepower and capabilities it needs to compete with Apple right? Well, no. Fitbit smartwatches were the most praiseworthy for their long battery life, which has historically been powered by extremely slow but highly efficient processors. Versa 2 is said to come with significant performance improvements, but as a smartwatch, it is not very … smart. Michael Fisher states in his review that the near-weekly life of the Versa 2 single-charge is impressive only when viewed in a very generous light. Version 2 lacks GPS, the battery lasts only so long when you do not use the constantly on display (with AoD is closer to 3 days), the clock itself works for almost nothing except for tracking fitness alone and most of your interactions with it end up happening on your smartphone. I can also tell you from experience that the Apple Watch Series 5 lasts about two days when charging with a constantly on display (and Samsung watches last even longer), so Fitbit manages a day more that is much less useful clock Exactly the technology for changing the game.
In short, Fitbit's products aren't the ones Google should be excited about buying. The hardware is nothing special, and the software obviously goes to the dump. What did Google then buy? The sad, very practical truth is probably patents and engineers. Fitbit is developing at least some of its hardware and probably has a fair number of patents related to fitness tracking and basic wearables, including those resulting from the acquisition of Pebble. Its product engineers would receive resources and tools from Google that Fitbit may not have allowed. In short, Google's purchase is almost certainly speculative. Google hopes that it hopes that Fitbit's technology portfolio and its engineering talent can create a better, faster, and stronger Wear OS clock. This is not the type of acquisition that shouts "our product is successful", it is much more like "Hello Maria" from a company that is quickly losing all hope of staying up-to-date in the wear space.
More cynically, from the acquisition of Google, it can be argued that this is more about the brand and users of Fitbit than anything else. If Google simply offers its own smartwatches such as Fitbits running Wear OS, it will be better able to take advantage of Fitbit's existing client base and retail connections. Client base is something Wear OS is sorely lacking at the moment, and Fitbit is a brand that many consumers recognize, albeit mostly for "dumb" fitness trackers, not its smart watches. Speaking of, given Google's focus on Wear OS as part of this acquisition, I'm guessing these more popular, but very basic, trackers will be phased out. In fact, my gut feeling is that Fitbit as a brand is completely divergent, because it is clear that Google will want to use the Pixel ecosystem to promote everything that a smartwatch is born of. Pixel Phone, Pixel Buds, Pixelbook, Pixel Watch. This part only makes sense. So, I think the chances that Fitbit will come to life on Google a la Nest are slim. Google also bought Nest when it was on a clear upward trajectory; Fitbit is an unprofitable, publicly traded corporation that may be in its last resort. This is probably not a brand that Google would be excited about.
This brings us back to the big question: what is Google's plan? Given all the capabilities and information we have available, I really wonder if Google actually has one. This acquisition feels a lot more like a top-down solution from executives who see Wear OS struggling and found enough men to conclude that buying a Fitbit could fulfill some vague corporate directive like "injecting new blood" or "double the IP" of accelerate growth and gain speed. "And for that reason, I think anyone who suggests that Fitbit will fundamentally change Google's approach to wearables is deluded across the border. Nothing in today's news suggests that major changes to Wear.  In some ways, Google acquiring Fitbit is kind of perfect: the company that, after five years, failed to build a successful smartwatch platform, buys a company that not only did the same but lost a lot of money doing it. on Wear OS itself, Google invests in a loser.
You'll have to excuse me for not being enthusiastic.