You will hear many things about today's Pebble acquisition by Fitbit - that it was about software, firmware, engineers, intellectual property, or simply that Pebble was unable to continue on as it existed. The one examination you should take to heart, though, is that Fitbit just straight up wrote a check to kill a competitor. There's really not any other way to slice this deal from Fitbit's end: Pebble was competition, even if not necessarily in a big commercial sense these days, and this was an easy way to smother a company that had hogged much of the wearable limelight.

Fitbit even goes so far as to make expressly clear that they are not acquiring any assets or personnel related to Pebble's hardware division - only its software and firmware teams, and some intellectual property. All of Pebble's products, existing and upcoming, have been cancelled. Eventually, Pebble devices will see degraded service. Pebble will cease to exist as a brand. Pebble Time 2 will never launch. Fitbit characterizes the acquisition in cold, clinical, acquihire terms:

The additional resources will facilitate the faster delivery of new products, features and functionality while introducing speed and efficiencies to develop the general purpose utility consumers value in a connected device.

Wow, I'm sure Pebble's engineers are super stoked to facilitate faster delivery and introduce speed and efficiencies to general purpose utility. Sounds like a blast! Fitbit may have paid for that engineering talent, and it may well help them, but they sound as excited about it as the groundskeeping department announcing the acquisition of some new, high-efficiency ride-on mowers. We'll probably never hear Fitbit mention the alleged fruits of this acquisition ever again, because it's clear their goal is to smother all memory of Pebble out of existence.

This also doesn't bode well for smartwatches at large. Pebble was often held up as a beacon of genuine, interesting innovation in the space, a player with a vision and a community that supported it. Now, it's dead. Sure, it may "live" on in zombie form through the help of third-party developers and those in the custom software scene, but there will never be another new Pebble, and so there will never be a new wave of Pebble users.

That leaves the Apple Watch, Samsung's Gear OS, and Android Wear as the world's remaining major smartwatch platforms. (Apple also did its part as an accomplice in the larger Pebble murder conspiracy, you'll recall.) You could argue for throwing Garmin and Fitbit into the pile, but their products hedge more on being smartwatch-like fitness trackers than they do smartwatches with an emphasis on fitness tracking. Shrinking smartwatch shipments already paint a bleak landscape of the category, and removing Pebble from the mix isn't going to help.

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  • Pebble [1] [2]