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  • Mawson Flinders Cook

Google Buys Fitbit, Your Data, And A Wearable OS That Doesn't Suck

For a long time, it’s felt like Google has left the fate of its smartwatch and wearable platform—Wear OS—to third-party device makers like Fossil. But that’s all about to change now that Google has agreed to acquire wearable giant Fitbit.

In a press release, Fitbit says it was acquired for $US2.1 ($3) billion. Meanwhile, in a separate blog post, Google senior vice president Rick Osterloh said Google sees this deal as “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.”

Osterloh also added that Fitbit “has been a true pioneer in the industry” and that “by working closely with Fitbit’s team of experts, and bringing together the best AI, software and hardware, we can help spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.”

After years of hearing rumours about a supposed Google-made Pixel Watch that never materialised, this deal should give Google the resources and expertise to create a new line of first-party wearables devices to rival other tech giants.

When it comes to the wearable market as a whole, this is critically important for Google. According to IDC stats from Q1 2019, Fitbit sits in fifth place for total wearable market share behind Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Samsung (in that order), with Apple having a commanding lead at 26 per cent.

For Google, wearables have been a missing piece to the puzzle in the company’s push into ambient computing, which seeks to give users more natural and intuitive ways of accessing data or controlling devices, while preventing gadgets from being cumbersome or intrusive.

Osterloh also mentioned that while Google wants to help people “live healthier, more active lives,” Google doesn’t want to compromise people’s privacy, especially as it pertains to potentially sensitive health data. So to the end, Osterloh says Google will never sell personal information to anyone, and that Google will “will be transparent about the data we collect and why.”

However, because Google has only just entered into a definitive agreement to buy Fitbit, I wouldn’t expect to hear about any new Google-made wearables until later next year. But with Google I/O typically being held in the spring, that seems like a perfect time for Google to show off the fruits of its upcoming purchase.

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