FitBit Will Keep Pebble Smart Watches Active Through 2017

Smart Watch industry consolidation - FitBit could be in talks to acquire Pebble Technology Corporation

Amidst rising uncertainty about the continuance of support for Pebble branded smart watches, Pebble has now announced post the acquisition by FitBit that support for their smart watch ecosystem will continue through 2017 at least.

“Fitbit is going out of its way to keep Pebble software and services running through 2017. To be clear, no one on this freshly-formed team seeks to brick Pebble watches in active service. The Pebble SDK, CloudPebble, Timeline APIs, firmware availability, mobile apps, developer portal, and Pebble appstore are all elements of the Pebble ecosystem that will remain in service at this time.”

FitBit’s purchase of Pebble assets did not include the smart watch brand, but rather the talent and core intellectual property owned by Pebble.

The question now is around the app constellation around Pebble devices. Will developers be willing to continue building apps for a platform that may not exist in the future? Pebble says that “developers are welcome to keep creating and updating apps,” but is that really going to happen? The new team under FitBit seems to think so:

“We’ve seen a massive influx of community developers teaming up to keep the Pebble watch experience alive, long into the future.”

In fact, there is now a site called dedicated to keeping the Pebble ecosystem alive. The question is, can this put enough pressure on FitBit to make them continue their support for Pebble beyond 2017?

The problem is, it’s not entirely in their best interest to do so. Of course, having a large group of thousands of users isn’t something they’ll want to deactivate right away, but what are the practical considerations?

For one, FitBit intends to leverage Pebble technology and improve its own current offerings. That could potentially lead to stepping on their own toes down the road, not to mention cannibalizing what possible sales conversions they could have gotten for the FitBit product line up.

That might happen if they retain the Pebble brand, which they obviously can’t do because they don’t own it. The best they can do, therefore, is to continue the existing product line up and re-brand it to fit better into their own product portfolio.

But that brings in the danger of brand dilution. Even if they eventually create a FitBit offshoot brand just to cater to the needs of the current Pebble customer and developer base, it could erode their own brand’s value in the long run.

What’s clear for now is that the Pebble team does want some amount of pressure to come from existing users, something made explicit in their blog post:

“Finally, I want the Pebble community to know just how much impact they can have on what’s to come. Continuing to engage with us and sharing your passion for what makes Pebble special to you will go a long way towards showing our Fitbit friends how valuable your enthusiasm can be.”

Are they counting on the “value” of that enthusiasm to be a driving factor behind FitBit’s future decisions regarding Pebble? It would seem so.

For now, Pebble users can celebrate the fact that most of the services will continue for another year, and mobile apps will soon get updates. Third-party apps are still under a cloud, but the team has promised to provide more information on this, which we will deliver to you as soon as it’s made available.

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