Fitbit is only acquiring Pebble's software IP, less than half of team

Pebble will refund some Kickstarter backers, and Fitbit will work to support NightScout project
By Jonah Comstock
Share

Fitbit confirmed the rumored acquisition of Pebble today, but clarified that it is not acquiring the business in its entirety -- only the software IP and some personnel. Notably, Fitbit won't take on Pebble's debts or it's hardware assets, which the company could still sell in a separate deal, and Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky will not start a job at Fitbit. Instead, according to a report in Bloomberg, he'll be moving to a position at Y Combinator. 

“With basic wearables getting smarter and smartwatches adding health and fitness capabilities, we see an opportunity to build on our strengths and extend our leadership position in the wearables category,” James Park, CEO and cofounder of Fitbit, said in a statement. “With this acquisition, we’re well positioned to accelerate the expansion of our platform and ecosystem to make Fitbit a vital part of daily life for a wider set of consumers, as well as build the tools healthcare providers, insurers and employers need to more meaningfully integrate wearable technology into preventative and chronic care.”

Pebble also posted a farewell message as an update to its latest Kickstarter campaign, in which it confirms that the Pebble Core and Time 2 devices will not be shipped and anyone who pre-ordered those devices will be refunded. As for the fate of existing Pebble devices, the company hopes to allow users to keep them running for a while at least.

"Active Pebble watches will work normally for now," the company wrote. "Functionality or service quality may be reduced down the road. We don’t expect to release regular software updates or new Pebble features. Our new mission will focus on bringing Pebble’s unique wearables expertise to future Fitbit products. We’re also working to reduce Pebble's reliance on cloud services, letting all Pebble models stay active long into the future."

For many, losing functionality of a Pebble device will be an annoyance or an inconvenience, but for a few it might be much more than that. Pebble was one of the preferred wearables for the Nightscout project, a crowdsourced DIY project in which people with diabetes network their own insuling pumps, CMGs, smartphones, and wearables together to regulate their glucose levels. Nightscout posted an update on its Facebook page saying that Fitbit is committed to supporting the project.

"(1) The infrastructure will remain in place, the lights are going to be on for quite a while. Short- and mid-term, don't expect any changes to existing devices in the wild," James Wedding wrote on the group's Facebook page. "(2) For now, they plan to keep the Pebble app in the app stores to support existing devices. This could change, but they wouldn't take something away without a plan to keep functionality going. 
(3) Many of the folks going over to Fitbit know about Nightscout and are well aware of this project. They're going to get through this change, and then we'll start looking at how we can continue to develop together."

Bloomberg reports, citing anonymous sources, that about 40 percent of Pebble employees, mostly software engineers, got job offers. It remains to be seen what that means for Pebble's impact on Fitbit culture and offerings. In Pebble's farewell letter, they encourage their fans to reach out to Fitbit and encourage the company to adapt Pebble features.

"Pebble’s expertise, philosophy, and culture will live on at Fitbit," the company wrote. "Much of our team and resources will join Fitbit to deliver new 'moments of awesome' in future Fitbit products, developer tools, and experiences. As our transition progresses, we’ll have exciting new stories to tell and milestones to celebrate. It’s a bittersweet time, no doubt. We’ll miss what we’re leaving behind, but are excited for what the future holds. It will be important for Pebblers to extend a warm welcome to Fitbit—as fans and customers—sharing what they love about Pebble and what they’d like to see next."