Google buying Fitbit for $2.1 billion is likely to have an effect on Wear OS to some degree, but not in any way does that mean Wear OS is going to disappear.
For those that are unaware, Google confirmed last week that it was going to be buying Fitbit. This might seem like a conflict of interest with Google’s own wearables platform – Wear OS. And if it was that would certainly be an odd move. Given how much more popular Fitbit’s platform is than Wear OS in the wearables market.
Google didn’t pay $2.1 billion for Fitbit for nothing though. It surely has a grand plan for it all, even if all the pieces of the puzzle haven’t been made clear yet. What is clear is that Google will be collaborating with Fitbit to further Wear OS.
Google is using Fitbit to invest in the Wear OS ecosystem
Google hasn’t played all its cards yet. Rather it hasn’t shared all of the details of its plans. It has however hinted at what it plans to do for the future of its wearables platform – Wear OS.
Fitbit is a big part of the end result, which could be years away. All that we know is that at some point in the future Fitbit will have played a role in Google’s efforts to improve the Wear OS ecosystem.
In a blog post that went out the same day as the acquisition announcement, Google VP of Wear OS Sameer Samat mentions that Fitbit will play a pivotal role in Wear OS’ future. Google doesn’t break everything down.
However, Samat does note that the Wear OS team and everyone at Google looks forward to “collaborating with Fitbit” for the future of Wear OS. He also points out that the company will be bringing the best of two company’s smartwatch and health platforms together.
It sounds a whole lot like Google’s plans for Wear OS will end up merging with Fitbit’s platform for a new and improved Wear OS down the line.
The writing on the wall
It is in no way a secret that Wear OS probably hasn’t been what Google was hoping. It holds a small share of the wearables market compared to competitors. Even after Google revamped what is now Wear OS from its previous iteration – Android Wear.
With a lack of success in any meaningful way, it stands to reason that Google is looking for methods to improve the operating system, instead of killing it off. Especially when you consider that Google’s brand partners are still heavily invested.
Some speculation may already be floating around that Google plans to kill off one or the other of its now two wearables platforms. Some things to consider: The deal with Fitbit isn’t entirely final. Until it’s approved, it may still not go through.
Chances are likely that it will though. And when it does, Google would be making a huge mistake to kill off either of Wear OS or Fitbit’s platforms. On the one hand, Google has built all these relationships with numerous brands, some of which have just announced new watches.
On the other hand, Fitbit has a massive global marketshare in wearables, and many more users for its devices than Wear OS. It wouldn’t make sense for Google to alienate its own partners, or the legion of Fitbit users, all of which generally really love their devices.
This paired with Samat’s announcement and vague statements within, suggests that Google will be working to merge the two platforms into something that can be used on both sets of devices. As opposed to dumping one or the other entirely.
In this method, Google can then work to keep both Wear OS devices afloat, as well as all the Fitbit users.
The evolution of Wear OS could be a hybrid Fitbit platform
There’s no way to know for sure that Google is merging Wear OS and Fitbit’s platform into one harmonious operating system for both sets of wearables. That does however make the most sense for why Google would make this purchase though.
Even if this is something that will only emerge far down the line, it would seem that is the intended goal. Google is trying to buy its way into the wearables market, and what better way to do that than to purchase one of the most successful wearables companies.
As mentioned before though, Google can’t simply drop one platform or the other. Lest it anger either its partners or its newly acquired users. Neither is a good choice. So, it would seem the only option that potentially saves both is to create a platform that can be used by partners and Fitbit users. One platform for all.
If this is Google’s plan, there’s no telling what features would make it into a finished product. You can bet that it will be the best features of both though. Samat says as much by noting that they want to bring “the best of their smartwatch platforms and health applications together.”
Fitbit could help build Made by Google wearables, but not a “Pixel” Watch
When it comes to Google and wearables, the question on everyone’s minds seems to be “is there going to be a Pixel Watch this year?” Google initially had plans to launch a watch under the Pixel brand, but it was scrapped before the first Pixel because of a few reasons.
Every year since has begged the question of whether this would be the year the watch shows up. Each year Google’s hardware event comes up and each year, no watch.
You could argue that Google may not need a watch to fit alongside the Pixel phones. If you look at the competition though, Samsung and Apple both sell watches that are marketed as being perfect for their own devices.
Samsung Galaxy device buyers gravitate towards the Galaxy watches. Apple device buyers gravitate towards the Apple Watch. This is because they fit within the ecosystem better than other options. If Google had something like that, it might do better in the wearables market.
This brings us back to the acquisition of Fitbit. Google could have Fitbit make its very first watch that gets presented under the Made by Google brand, like the Pixel phones. But, it likely wouldn’t be a “Pixel Watch.”
Let me explain further. It likely wouldn’t be called the Pixel Watch. It could be the Pixel Watch in spirit. But, come under a different name. Manufactured by Fitbit for Made by Google, and a perfect pairing for Pixel phones.
Having a Pixel Watch would just be Google competing with itself
Any future attempts at releasing a Pixel Watch in name could end up just being Google competing with itself. The Pixel brand is Google’s way of saying, this is the smartest Android will be. The reason to buy a Pixel device is because of how smart they are. Not because of the high-end specs.
If Google creates a Pixel Watch, and calls it as such, then it’s saying this will be the smartest watch you will ever get. That would be contradictory to trying to sell the smartwatches under the Fitbit name, which Google now basically owns. This could lead to Google tanking the Fitbit brand, and that would be a mistake.
Because as noted earlier, Fitbit is especially popular. Its consumers love their devices. And that’s precisely why it has grown to be so big. Google doing anything to tarnish that brand is a lose-lose situation. For it and for the consumer.
It serves Google’s purposes better to have Fitbit make a watch for the Made by Google brand, but give an entirely different name other than Pixel.
Google could also want the health data
It seems the most likely that Google wants Fitbit for the merging of platforms and their features. As well as assistance with building some Made by Google hardware.
There’s also a chance that it wants Fitbit’s health data, too. This might not be the main reason for the acquisition, but it would be foolish to think Google won’t use the data from Fitbit to help flesh out a health-centric wearables platform.
Wear OS needs to evolve. It will evolve. That much is made clear by Samat, who says the team is “hard at work on the next evolution of Wear OS.” The only thing that remains to be seen is what that evolution looks like.
From the outside, it a looks a lot like it involves both Wear OS and Fitbit platforms being fused into a single system for everyone.