When Fitbit acquired Pebble, the prevailing wisdom was that a proper smartwatch and platform was in the making. And with its most recent acquisition (and a promise to deliver an app store in 2017), it’s clear Fitbit is driving towards that particular set of goals.
Today, smartwatch maker Vector announced it has been acquired by Fitbit, writing: “We believe this is an important milestone as a moment when we will start building other new and amazing products, features and experiences, incorporating our unique technology and knowhow with Fitbit’s experience and global community.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Unlike Pebble in the wake of Fitbit’s buy, Vector isn’t leaving customers high and dry. Warranties remain valid, and technical support is available. Like Pebble, Vector offers timepieces with an e-ink screen (the screens in question can be round or rectangular, depending on your preference).
Vector’s design could be what drove this unexpected purchase, too. Fitbit’s Pebble buy was more for its software and intellectual property than its middling hardware. Pairing Pebble’s software synergy with Vector’s superior hardware might prove a stealthy one-two punch for Fitbit.
Vector had its own developer program, but as a smaller player in the game it didn’t have much going for it. Still, Vector had what it calls ‘streams,’ which are a proprietary term for ‘apps’ in the Vector ecosystem.
This news dovetails nicely with Fitbit’s promise to build an app store for its wearables by the end of 2017. CEO James Park told Wareable he wants the store up and running “as soon as possible”:
“There are so many different applications [our partners] want to write, from fitness-related ones to pill reminder applications. And we don’t have the support in place for that right now, or any software infrastructure on our devices to run those apps.”
This is a subtle admission that the wearable market has lapped Fitbit, too. While fitness seems to be the driving force for people who are buying wearables, dovetailing neatly with Fitbit’s core product line of fitness trackers, the Apple Watch (which remains the strongest competitor in the smartwatch space, at least according to analysts’ sales estimates) is getting more fitness-centric. Moreover, the Apple Watch proved people were interested in good-looking smartwatches that happen to provide solid fitness tracking (something Fitbit maybe doesn’t do so well).
It’s hard to tell what Fitbit’s next move will be, though. It could simply re-brand existing Vector smartwatches as its own and launch them with new firmware alongside its nascent app store concept, or have some fresh ideas for wearables in the works. Whatever it does, this acquisition presents a new platform for developers to consider.