Fourteen-and-a-half months later, Google has finally completed its acquisition of health wearables company Fitbit. The news was announced this morning in complementary statements from Fitbit cofounder and (now previous) CEO James Park and Rick Osterloh, Google's SVP of devices and services.
"This is just the beginning because becoming part of the Google family means we can do even more to inspire and motivate you on your journey to better health," Park wrote in the post. "We’ll be able to innovate faster, provide more choices, and make even better products to support your health and wellness needs."
The companies' $2.1 billion deal was announced in late 2019 and originally scheduled to go through during 2020. However, the acquisition was held up by regulatory probes, the most notable of which was a full-scale investigation from the European Commission that wrapped up in December.
WHY IT MATTERS
Today's announcement from Osterloh paints a clear picture of how each company's strengths could be applied to new health wearables. Fitbit would contribute its consumer product experience and established technology platform, he said, while Google would weigh in with its deep trove of software, hardware and AI expertise.
And while Fitbit wasn't necessarily a small company at the time of acquisition, Park said he was excited for what the health-wearables brand could achieve with the tech giant's extensive assets and capital.
"On our own, we pushed the bounds of what was possible from the wrist, pioneering step, heart rate, sleep and stress tracking," he said. "With access to Google’s incredible resources, knowledge and global platform, the possibilities are truly limitless."
From the start, Google and Fitbit stressed that this deal would keep the Fitbit brand on both Android and iOS devices, and that the companies' primary focus would remain on developing new devices rather than mining users' health data.
These aims were reiterated in today's announcements, but with the added weight of their recent commitments to the European Commission. Chief among these are agreements to keep sensor- and user-submitted data siloed from advertising data, to keep the Fitbit Web API open to third parties without fees, and to appoint a trustee who can monitor these implementations.
"These commitments will be implemented globally so that all consumers can benefit from them," Osterloh said. "We’ll also continue to work with regulators around the world so that they can be assured that we are living up to these commitments."
Google has now gained control of perhaps the best-known name in fitness trackers and health wearables. Per Park's announcement, the company has sold over 120 million devices in more than 100 different countries, and its users have logged 275 trillion steps and more than 15 billion hours of sleep during the course of its 13-year run.
THE LARGER TREND
Google's decision to acquire Fitbit came at a trying time for the wearables-maker. Although its pivot toward smartwatches was paying off with a couple of strong launches, its bread-and-butter trackers weren't pulling in the numbers they had in years past. At the same time, its enterprise health monitoring unit was gaining steam among employers, while the newly launched Fitbit Premium subscription service sought a new stream of revenue from dedicated consumers.
Taken together, Google was set to inherit a company with fair device sales, but declining overall revenues. That trend generally continued for the next couple of quarters, although the company's revenue situation seems to have improved somewhat as of its most recent quarterly report in October-November.
And despite the pending acquisition, 2020 was still a fairly active year for Fitbit. Alongside new product launches, its devices were at the heart of several studies involving COVID-19 symptoms and diagnosis prediction, and the company finally picked up regulatory clearance for ECG features long claimed by its rivals in the smartwatch space.