While the market for wearables is relatively young, Apple has been the only tech giant that has been able to expand into it. By acquiring Fitbit, Google hopes it can at least catch up in terms of fitness tracking and wellness functionality. And who knows, perhaps consumers will finally look to upcoming Wear OS devices as worthwhile alternatives to the Apple Watch.
Recently, the rumor mill has been buzzing about Google’s intention to acquire Fitbit as a strategic move to save the Wear OS ecosystem. Today, the two companies announced the deal, where Google agreed to pay $2.1 billion for the wearable maker. As a result, Fitbit’s stock shot up almost 16 percent.
The deal will have Fitbit pooling its resources under Google as opposed to being another subsidiary for Alphabet. Google sought to fill a gap in its hardware lineup, which currently includes phones, tablets, clamshells, headphones and speakers. Fitbit has been facing strong competition in the smartwatch market, where Apple dominates with the Apple Watch.
Of course, this is likely to raise questions about user privacy. In a press release, Fitbit explained that Google was simply the “ideal partner to advance our mission,” and that it intends to uphold its tradition of putting users in control of how their data is used. The company also explicitly ruled out the possibility that users’ health and wellness information would be used for Google ads. On the other hand, it’s likely that future versions of the Fitbit Versa will ship with Google Assistant instead of Amazon’s Alexa.
Google says the Fitbit acquisition will “bring the best of our smartwatch platforms and health applications together.” And while many of us are waiting for a Pixel smartwatch, it appears the fitness tracking magic will be shared with partners as well. After all, Google knows the only way Wear OS has a chance of competing with Watch OS is by forging partnerships that create a diverse range of products, while it focuses on creating aspirational “Made by Google” products for Google enthusiasts.
The Fitbit acquisition is expected to be a gradual one, while the two companies work out the regulatory and shareholder approvals. The deal will close sometime next year, but in the meantime Google is the subject of a broad antitrust probe that will peek into its search and advertising business, as well as its many acquisitions.