One of the biggest news in the last few weeks is Google's acquisition of Fitbit, which is becoming a popular hardware for fitness tracking, like the Fitbit Versa Smartwatches series. While this latest acquisition of hardware at Google is an important step for the company in creating its own wearables, it's hard not to be pessimistic about the future of Fitbit.
You see, the experience of Google when it comes to acquiring hardware companies is not the greatest. Most companies purchased by Google either fail or simply integrate with other Google brands. The list of Google hardware acquisitions that stand the test of time is quite small.
We obviously have no idea if Fitbit will flourish or fail at Google, but we can get an idea of its chances by looking at Google's history. Below you will find a list of the most famous Google hardware acquisitions and what is happening with these companies today.
The acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google in 2011 is probably one of the most famous purchases in company history, the deal costing Google $ 12.5 billion, making it the largest acquisition yet Google for hardware so far.
Google's intention to buy was multifaceted. The company is seeking control of the thousands of patents related to mobile devices that Motorola had at the time, with the intention of using those patents to protect against numerous Android lawsuits from competitors (most notably Apple). Google also wants to break into the smartphone hardware space by introducing high-end entry-level devices specifically designed for emerging markets.
However, the plan did not work out as hoped by Google. By 2014, Google revealed that it would sell Motorola Mobility to Chinese manufacturer Lenovo. That sale earned Google just $ 2.91 billion, a meager percentage of what it originally paid. However, Google has managed to retain most of Motorola's patents.
Buying the entire Motorola smartphone business was not the last time Google tried to make its way into the hardware business. In 2017, Google announced that it has acquired much of HTC's design and research talent, as well as non-exclusive rights to some of HTC's intellectual property. The deal costs Google $ 1.1 billion.
Google and HTC worked very closely together to develop the first Google Pixel smartphone, which landed in 2016. Although Pixel was designed by Google and marketed as a "Made by Google" product, HTC has a massive hand in device creation.
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HTC's purchase of Google a year later was a strategic maneuver for developing future Pixel smartphones without having to contract with another company. Google Pixel 3 – like any other Pixel smartphone since then – is at least partly developed by the HTC team purchased by Google.
In the meantime, HTC itself is igniting, probably to a small extent not losing about half of its most talented designers and researchers in this sale.
Two former Apple engineers launched Nest Labs in 2010. By 2011, the first Nest branded Nest Learning Thermostat appeared. It was years before he launched his second product, which was an intelligent smoke and carbon monoxide detector for homes.
In 2014, Google grabbed Nest with a $ 3.2 billion cash deal that ended within 24 hours. At that time, Google promised that Nest would continue to act as its own brand, as a separate entity from Google. However, this setup proved difficult as Nest's corporate culture was criticized as very demanding and various leadership shakes shook the boat.
In 2018, Google reneged on its promise to keep Nest as a separate entity and announced that it would merge Nest into Google. This has led to more management shakes, including the departure of Nest's CEO and Chief Product Officer. Google has reversed things by announcing that it will accept the Google Nest brand for all Google smart home products – including those that have nothing to do with Nest – even as long as it renames its existing Google Home Hub retroactively like Google Nest Hub.
After Google acquired Nest, very soon after that it acquired Dropcam. This hardware purchase at Google allowed Nest to create one of its star products: Nest Cam.
During the sale – which cost only $ 555 million – Dropcam had only two products: Dropcam and Dropcam Pro. Nest took these projects and pinched them a little to release the first Nest Cam, which was sold as a Dropcam Pro receiver. After that, Google and Nest began migrating Dropcam users to the "new" Nest app, which was simply a cloaked version of Dropcam's original app.
After making these moves, Google then opened the Dropcam brand. Greg Duffy, the co-founder of Dropcam, openly regrets the sale of Google.
Believe it or not, Fitbit is not the first company bought by Google that focuses on wearable devices. At the end of 2016, Google purchased Cronologics for an undisclosed amount. Cronologics developed only one product before acquiring hardware from Google: CoWatch, as seen in the image above.
CoWatch includes integration with Amazon Alexa, which allows the user to issue voice commands right next to their smart watch. The retail price of the device was $ 279 at launch.
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Although Cronologics had a big hand in developing CoWatch, that's not why Google bought the company. Instead, Google wanted the team to work on Android Wear, the Android-based carrier operating system that would eventually become Wear OS. At the time of the Google purchase, the Cronologics team was working on their own portable operating system based on an open version of Android based on Lollipop.
After the purchase, Google dissolved Cronologics.
This is probably one of the more interesting Google hardware purchases in company history. Titan Aerospace started in 2011 with the intention of developing drones that could theoretically only fly solar for up to five years.
Initially, Facebook expressed an interest in acquiring the company with the specific intention of using the aircraft to supply high quality aircraft. high speed internet to places in the world where this would be logically difficult. However, Google jumped at the idea and bought the company in 2014.
Google placed Titan Aerospace under the experimental unit of Google X and renamed it Project Titan. Google hoped that Project Titan could deliver the promised aircraft and, as Facebook intended, use the aircraft to distribute wireless internet to unnoticed areas.
Unfortunately, by 2017, Google abandoned the project and dissolved the rest from Titan Aerospace. Instead, Google shifted its focus to Loon, a very similar idea that uses balloons instead of winged planes.
Various Robotics Companies
Although we have not yet seen any robots made by Google, Google is very involved in the development of robotics. , In 2013, Google acquired at least three prominent robotics companies: Mecca Robotics, Redwood Robotics and Boston Dynamics.
Meka Robotics mainly focuses on human-robot interaction, creating parts of robotic bodies and full humanoid machines. Redwood Robotics was a joint venture with Meka and other companies with the intention of developing robotic weapons for human use. Both companies were launched on the Google X platform and since then, not much has been heard about them.
Boston Dynamics is probably the most famous robotics company that created the BigDog robot. Like Meka and Redwood, Google released Boston Dynamics on Google X. However, in 2017, Google sold Boston Dynamics to SoftBank – which owns the Sprint wireless provider – for an undisclosed amount.
Now we come to Google's latest hardware acquisition: Fitbit. As the deal is only a few days away at the moment, we have little idea where the company was headed.
It is unlikely that Google would replicate what it did with Cronologics and push Fitbit development teams to simply work on Wear OS. In addition, Google is unlikely to repeat the mistake it made with Motorola Mobility and ultimately resell the company in a few short years.
Related: Best Fitbit Tracking and Smart Watches
Instead, we expect Google to combine what it did with the HTC team and what it did with Nest Labs. Google is likely to release new smart wearables under the name Fitbit (or Fitbit by Google, or something along those lines) and then eventually release a wearable from Google, created by the Fitbit team. These wearables may also include aspects of Fossil patents purchased by Google earlier this year.
If things go well, Fitbit will eventually be dissolved and its employees will instead work exclusively on Google-branded media.
But we are fairly certain of one thing: judging from Google's history, the Fitbit brand won't last long.