Nov 08, 2019

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit could shake up the wearable ecosystem for developers

Google acquires Fitbit

Google announced its acquisition of Fitbit, one of the world’s leading wearable device makers, for $2.1B.

Google’s acquisition could be a boon for developers in the smart wearable ecosystem, but poses a number of short-term challenges.

In the short term, Fitbit is thrown into a state of developer limbo. Without any clear plans for the future of Fitbit and how it will be integrated into Google’s developer ecosystem, Google undermines developer confidence in the Fitbit platform. Likewise, Google’s tendency to shutter projects and services makes Fitbit a riskier platform for developers interested in creating wearable apps.

In the long term, however, Google can resuscitate its dying wearable business and breathe new life into its Android-based health platform.

WearOS, Google’s wearable operating system, is widely regarded as a failure. WearOS controls a paltry 4% of the smart wearable market, while rival Apple controls a commanding 38%. Unlike Apple, Google doesn’t build its own smartwatch or wearable hardware, relying instead on other manufacturers that have been unable to keep pace with Apple and Samsung.

Google desperately needs Fitbit’s hardware, which makes up an impressive 24% of the wearable market. From Google:

"Our hardware business is still relatively young, but we’ve built a strong foundation of capabilities and products, including Pixel smartphones and Pixelbooks, Nest family of devices for the home, and more."

Once Google’s hardware portfolio—boosted by Fitbit’s tech—is widely adopted, Google can unify its developer experience across Android, WearOS, and Fitbit. Developers will benefit from a more streamlined ecosystem and a deeper focus on health applications—a fast-growing consumer market flush with opportunity.

Google Fit, an app for iOS and Android that aggregates your health data from different integrations, will likely be revamped.

Google will likely also find ways to merge FitbitOS—a slimmed down operating system designed for exceptional battery life—and WearOS. App development for Fitbit and WearOS could be massively improved, simplifying the developer experience.

For Google, the success of its Fitbit acquisition will ultimately depend on its long-term benefits to developers in its wearable and Android ecosystem outweighing any short-term uncertainty. That is no small challenge.

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