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Pebble Gets Acquired By Fitbit - Ends Production and Ceases Support Of Its Existing Lineup of Smartwatches (getpebble.com) 193

Reader phorm writes: In a notice to Kickstarter backers, pebble has stated that -- following the acquisition by Fitbit (official now) -- they will no longer promote, manufacture, or sell devices. Further, while existing functionality may continue, it is likely to be degraded and warranty support will no longer be provided. This includes any recently shipped Pebble models. For those that were eagerly awaiting shipment of Pebble Time 2 and other newer devices, those devices will not ship at all. Pebble has indicated refunds will be made within 4-8 weeks. Those expecting their money may not want to hold their breath, however, because a contradictory statement made by to backers by email says that refunds will be made via Kickstarter by March 2017.Fitbit said it is only purchasing software assets from Pebble.
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Pebble Gets Acquired By Fitbit - Ends Production and Ceases Support Of Its Existing Lineup of Smartwatches

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  • I'm sorry, but wouldn't Fitbit be obligated to honor the original warranty (or whatever laws are in place in the nation it was purchased in)?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not purchasing the company, just some engineers and software. The company is disappearing.

      • Re:Warranty Support? (Score:5, Informative)

        by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @02:52PM (#53442145) Homepage

        So Pebble (the company) continues to exist (perhaps in receivership) until all it's debtors (which includes warranties) are satisfied.

      • If they purchased "substantially" all the company, they are still obliged. The only way out would be for Pebble to have declared bankruptcy BEFORE Fitbit bought the assets, same as GM did to shed its' pension liabilities. Guess they need someone to whack them in the head. If GM had to do it that way, you can be sure that some piss-ant business doesn't have enough clout with the courts to do otherwise. Just because it's tech doesn't mean that the laws don't apply to them, despite all the wishful thinking Ube
        • Re:Warranty Support? (Score:5, Informative)

          by srw ( 38421 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @03:36PM (#53442489) Homepage
          The original "Pebble" was "assigned" to an "Assignee" corporation, which sounds a lot like a bankruptcy trustee. It appears this is the way it's done in California. (I would be happy to hear from someone who knows more about this.) So, no, Fitbit is not obligated to do anything. They bought _some_ IP from the assignee which allows the assignee to pay off some of the creditors.
    • No, sounds like Fitbit is acquiring people not the actual company and it's assets.

      • Re:Warranty Support? (Score:5, Informative)

        by mlw4428 ( 1029576 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @02:39PM (#53442009)
        You're sort of right. Apparently they're acquiring the IP and also hiring some of the employees that are now jobless. The shell company still technically exists and will go into bankruptcy and probably receivership shortly thereafter.
        • by galabar ( 518411 )
          Wouldn't sale of these assets be complicated by the bankruptcy?
          • My understanding is that they're selling first and THEN entering bankruptcy.
            • My understanding is that selling off all your assets right before entering bankruptcy is a reason to have those sales reversed by the courts.
              • Re:Warranty Support? (Score:4, Informative)

                by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @04:26PM (#53442815)

                My understanding is that selling off all your assets right before entering bankruptcy is a reason to have those sales reversed by the courts.

                No, a fraudulent sale is a reason to have sales unwound by the courts. If you have an arms-length transaction with a willing buyer at a reasonable price, you haven't done anything that a bankruptcy court wouldn't oversee and approve in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

                The company is done. Even in bankruptcy (which is likely coming), those assets would be sold, the obligations left with the defunct company and discharged, and the cash doled out first to the secured creditors, then (if any is left) to others. There's a rather complex hierarchy of priority, and who gets what amount of cents on the dollar is frequently negotiated, but customers are essentially unsecured creditors and very low in the priority scheme.

                In short, you're not going to be able to force someone who only is interested in buying IP to also take on order, warranty, and support obligations for the product.

              • Though technically true the creditors would have to take action and all indications are the Pebble was out of business, with excessive debt and insufficient revenue to cover costs and the indications are they shopped around for a buyer. The creditors could get the sale reversed but only under the assumption that they can locate a better offer, and one of the components of the deal are gone and can't be recovered (the employees). I read a news article that said Pebble had been shopping themselves around for

              • Only if the sale wasn't an arms length transaction for fair value.

                You are confusing the sale of assets with a company paying SOME of its debts prior to filing for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court could claw back some of the debt payments.

    • by mlyle ( 148697 )

      Yes. You're a creditor like anyone else. Get in line. (Probably not all of those with secured claims are getting paid).

      • by galabar ( 518411 )
        That's if this was an actual bankruptcy. If the Pebble owners sold, thinking they made a profit, they may be rudely surprised.
        • by mlyle ( 148697 )

          Yah, asset sales aren't made in those situations and I'm sure there was competent counsel present.

          There's probably no bankruptcy filing now (it's often not advantageous in this type of situation, but --- 99.999% chance this is going chapter 7 or orderly dissolution.

    • by Tukz ( 664339 )

      Sounds like they are acquiring software assets and possible human resources but not the actual company.

      According to TFA, Pebble is shutting down.

    • Not necessarily, I used to work for a company that grew substantially through acquisition. We never actually "purchased company X", nor were any staff allowed to use those terms. They acquired "certain assets and liabilities of company X". Exactly which assets & liabilities are hidden in the contract that's not usually open to the public. Share holders seldom see or care about details since they're only voting on ROI. All the undesired pieces the acquiring company wants to shed don't make the trans
  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @02:27PM (#53441873)

    Get bought out before dropping support. Laugh all the way to the bank.

  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WoodburyMan ( 1288090 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @02:28PM (#53441887)
    I backed the original Pebble, then later the Pebble Time Steel. I had backed the Pebble Time 2, and I am HIGHLY disappointed with both Pebble and Fitbit for not honoring those pledges. Even with degraded support or updates, I would have loved to have what I paid for. And shame on Fitbit for not honoring support or warranty for the company they are buying. The worst of it is there are users with BRAND NEW Pebble 2 devices, only days old, that now have no warranty and no support period. What's even worse is that there are no other comparable smart watches. I'm one of the few that love smart watches, despite the current trend and downfall of many of them, as I've owned them going back to Calculator Watches, then Fossil Abacus PalmOS 4.x watch, and many others. I tried a Android Wear watch but grew dissatisfied with it as the battery on both those and Apple watches in most cases do not even last a full day and are now *always on* display like ePaper watches are. I tried a Fitbit way back, as a health monitoring before they added step counters into Pebble. I hated it, and got it returned after the device stopped working a month or two later. This only solidifies my opinion of "Never again Fitbit"
    • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tukz ( 664339 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @02:33PM (#53441943) Journal

      And shame on Fitbit for not honoring support or warranty for the company they are buying.

      But they're not buying the company.
      This is from TFA: "We have made the tough decision to shut down the company and no longer manufacture Pebble devices"

      Sounds like they sold software right to FitBit and are shutting Pebble down.

      • by kwalker ( 1383 )

        Which is a really great cop-out.

        "No man, we didn't buy the company, we just bought its heart. All the rest of that trash belongs in the dumpster. Fuck your watch!"

        • by mlyle ( 148697 )

          In a situation like this, Pebble has the choice between stiffing all of its creditors (e.g. the bank, new kickstarter backers, etc) or selling some assets and only stiffing some.

          FitBit has a choice between buying some assets that they think are worth $10M to them, say, for a discount price of $7.5M... or paying off the bank for more than that and incurring all kinds of potential obligations by acquiring the whole company and getting those assets for a total price of more... or doing nothing.

          It's not great f

          • by Luthair ( 847766 )
            They also had the opportunity to run their company properly and not squander the kickstarter money on Aerons, Teslas n' Blow.
          • by unimacs ( 597299 )
            Yes, that's right. I had the unfortunate experience of working for a startup about 15 years ago that ran into financial difficulty. Survival depended on finding a buyer but that buyer didn't want everything, only those parts of the business that they thought had some benefit for them.

            In the end, the buyer backed out and the startup folded, leaving customers without service, employees that were suddenly out of work and hadn't been paid in several weeks, and all kinds of vendors that were owed money.

            Wha
        • Re:Sad (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @04:45PM (#53442947) Homepage Journal

          Well, I dunno. It seems like blaming Fitbit for Pebble's financial failure.

          Let's take a consequentialist view of matters. If the rule is you have to buy the whole business and continue to operate it, even though it's losing money, Pebble goes out of business and it's customers and debt holders suffer. If you can sell of just the good bits without the obligation to continue running the failing as before, the customers suffer but the debt holders get some relief. Which approach is better?

      • So to summarize...

        1) This is a dick move by the people in charge of Pebble, since they did nothing to ensure any existing obligations to their existing customers would be met.
        2) This is a dick move by FitBit, since they're basically going out of their way to make sure they're not spending a penny on any Pebble customers.

        And, most importantly,

        3) If, from today onward, you ever buy a FitBit product - you're telling FitBit "I'm okay with the way you treated Pebble's existing customers".

        Word of mouth is the onl

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by farble1670 ( 803356 )

          2) This is a dick move by FitBit, since they're basically going out of their way to make sure they're not spending a penny on any Pebble customers.
          3) If, from today onward, you ever buy a FitBit product - you're telling FitBit "I'm okay with the way you treated Pebble's existing customers".

          Ridiculous.

          Why should they? Those people are Pebble's customers, not Fitbits. Fitbit has zero connection to those people. They never sold them a product.

          Look at it this way. If Fitbit had bought the office chairs from Pebble's offices, would you feel the same way? It's no different. They aren't taking over Pebble's products, or continuing them in any way. As for the employees, they are only interviewing some of Pebble's old, now unemployed workers. Those people have no obligation to Fitbit, and ANY company

    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      I'm not sure I see the logic of blaming Fitbit that Pebble sucked at business. Or that people keep buying technological dead ends.

      However, it would be a very good gesture if Fitbit had the rights to the platform and unlocked it for the community. Personally I think the best course of action would be to avoid smart watches altogether in their present form.

    • It looks decent:

      http://consumer.huawei.com/en/... [huawei.com]

      Fitness oriented but nevertheless it has 6-14 day battery life and always on LCD screen.

      • by kwalker ( 1383 )

        No color on the display, no apps, no voice use, lame.

    • I hear you about smart watches - today, the only smart watches worth wearing (that meet all the criteria you stated) are Garmins. The Vivoactive and the Fenix 3 are excellent replacements for the Pebble.
    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      I have to say, I'm not that shocked. I got a good deal on one of the original Pebbles and, while it's kind of neat, I really don't use it much. It's too goofy to use as man-jewelry with a suit (which I rarely wear anyway), and I just don't usually need to know the time from a watch - I can look at my screen when I'm orking, and my phone is a fancy pocket watch too. I don't need to see notifications on my wrist, since I can just look at the phone99% of the time. So that leaves the novelty faces, and the nove

    • >"I tried a Android Wear watch but grew dissatisfied with it as the battery on both those and Apple watches in most cases do not even last a full day and are not *always on* display like ePaper watches are."

      You didn't try the Motorola 360.2. It is always-on, and battery lasts almost 2 days with light use. Inductive charging, nice round design, lots of apps, nice looking, full touchscreen, swappable bands. Just saying. Not cheap nor terribly thin, though. Of course, now we read that there are no plan

      • battery lasts almost 2 days with light use.

        In other words, the battery life is abysmal? "Almost" 2 days of light use from a charge is not a selling point.

    • I would have loved to have what I paid for. And shame on Fitbit for not honoring support or warranty for the company they are buying. The worst of it is there are users with BRAND NEW Pebble 2 devices, only days old, that now have no warranty and no support period.

      Welcome to the KickStarter Business Model(tm).

  • Who on earth is eagerly awaiting a Pebble Time 2? Who actually wants a Pebble Time 2?

    Apparently not even FitBit wants one...and that's saying something because there is little in the world more useless than a FitBit. We have two Charge HR's in the house and they are not durable and not accurate for their intended use.

    • by kwalker ( 1383 )

      *I* wanted a Pebble Time 2. I backed one. There were almost 60 thousand of us!

      *I* am currently wearing a Pebble Time and have been since it arrived.

      My wife has a Charge HR and only keeps putting up with it because she's addicted to looking at her numbers at the end of the day and beating mine. She hates when she has trouble getting the screen to come on (About 30% of the time) and she hates how it doesn't show the date (Like her previous Charge did, before the band broke irreparably, and since it's integrat

      • I have a Garmin VivoActive HR which I'm a pretty big fan of as an activity tracker. It beats the FitBit in every way. If you're looking for a tracker with smartwatchy features check out the Garmin line.
        • I have a Garmin VivoActive HR which I'm a pretty big fan of as an activity tracker. It beats the FitBit in every way. If you're looking for a tracker with smartwatchy features check out the Garmin line.

          While I ended up recently getting an Apple Watch, I can second this (before the AW I wore a Vivosmart). If the fitness-oriented features are what's most important to you - with the smart stuff as "nice to have" add-ons - Garmin beats FitBit handily. Battery life is great (I got 8-11 days from my Vivosmart, even after a year); and when I had to deal with customer support they've been responsive and helpful. Great company.

    • Who on earth is eagerly awaiting a Pebble Time 2? Who actually wants a Pebble Time 2?

      Me

  • Legalities aside, if this is how Fitbit treats existing customers now during an acquisition, I have no faith they'll do any better on their other products whenever they can get out of it.

    I've seen some Garmin products at the store - probably I'll get one of those instead. At least they have a reputation for long-term support of their products.

  • >> People funded product, product happens, people who built product sells out to competitor, product is killed

    Let's hope people have learned their lesson: any money they give through Kickstarter should be for entertainment purposes only. You're basically buying movie popcorn, at best.
    • by Tukz ( 664339 )

      But Pebble was an actual product, sold as an actual product outside Kickstarter.
      Brick and Mortar stores sold Pebble.

      • But Pebble was an actual product, sold as an actual product outside Kickstarter.

        Yes, but in the end, Pebble closed up shop like a Kickstarter project. The problem is the culture. A solid company would have found *some* buyer at some price point before it came to this, so if nothing else the lights could be kept on for a few years. In the end they walked away from all of their customers leaving them with a piece of cheap plastic.

    • I bought a number of Pebbles, but not a single one of them through Kickstarter.

  • If Fitbit are going to dump the platform they should just throw it open to generate some goodwill. At least the APIs and any publishing keys necessary to install apps. I don't see Fitbit garnering much loyalty from Pebble owners otherwise, nor commercial advantage from not doing it.

    And on a general point this just demonstrates why "smart" watches suck. They're closed platforms and when the platform is discontinued you're left with a bitrotten brain dead piece of crap. Just one more reason to buy a dumb wa

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      Why on earth would FitBit do that? It would just enable people to continue using the devices after whatever services are officially shut down. FitBit bought they to eliminate a competitor, not to continue to support their competitor's product.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        Because the platform's dead. Assuming Fitbit have the rights to the platform, what have they to lose from such a move? Do you think any Pebble owner is going to upgrade to Fitbit if the company just lobotomized their old watch? Of course not. If they have the rights it would make sense to generate some good will by turning over the platform to the community in some way.
      • FitBit bought they to eliminate a competitor, not to continue to support their competitor's product.

        FitBit makes no products that compete with Pebble watches, and Pebble watches don't compete with FitBit devices. Nothing FitBit makes can replace my Pebble, and everything they've said about this deal indicates that they have no intention of developing a new device that would.

        FitBit bought technology and expertise that they want to use in their own products, not a competitor. If it were just about eliminating competition, all they would have had to do is wait -- Pebble was already in deep trouble.

  • Pebble had a single source supplier for their displays.

    That source is in financial trouble and unable to produce the displays Pebble depends on.

    Therefore Pebble has no products to sell and thus no cash flow.

    Therefore Pebble has had to wind down operations and pay off creditors.

    Pebble's IP has some value to Fitbit and hiring a few of Pebble's suddenly-available engineers is a no-brainer but Fitbit has no interest in the Pebble company or it's products.

    The lesson is to be very leery of DEPENDING on a single source supplier. Pebble was a healthy going concern until they could no longer get their needed displays. Then it went off the rails.

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @04:25PM (#53442809)

      The problem here is that it's very hard to build a technological product without depending on a single source supplier somewhere. Just look at any smartphone: they all have at least semi-custom CPUs; you can't just drop in a different one, even if they are all ARM-based. Usually all the other complex chips are the same. You can design a new product (or maybe a new version that mostly looks and works the same from the user's perspective) with an alternate part, in many cases, but that's a more serious undertaking.

      Unfortunately for Pebble, it sounds like their product design was based on a type of display (e-ink) that just isn't all that widely used, especially now that e-books seem to have abandoned them. You can't make a smart-watch with a backlit LCD that runs for over a week without recharging; this is simply against the laws of physics, so e-ink was the obvious choice to make a product like this. I don't see how they really could have done anything different in regards to their screen supply choice.

  • It was the only smartwatch that met my needs, and it did so well enough that it has become indispensable to me. Now there's nothing on the market that I'm aware of that can replace it.

    • by kwalker ( 1383 )

      Same here. I'm going to hold onto my PT until it no longer functions. Even if I lose things that required servers, I'll still keep my notifications, call and music control until I am forced to give them up.

      • Re: So sad (Score:4, Interesting)

        by lord_mike ( 567148 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @03:33PM (#53442461)

        They can pry my pebble watch off my cold, dead, wrist.... Huge loss... at least the developer forum says that the cloud stuff will continue to run and they are planning to spin it off to the user community to run in the future.

    • Ditto. Really disappointing. I'm really fond of my Pebble Steel. I was thinking about moving to the Pebble Time Round, but I guess that won't happen now.

      I think this comes down to a case of a company being run by engineers; one that produces a great product, but can't run a business effectively. They have to sell to FitBit for $35 million, when they were reportedly offered $740 million from Citizen last year.
      https://techcrunch.com/2016/11... [techcrunch.com]

      • You can get one cheap on amazon as we speak.... $100 for a refurbished one. Since you don't need to worry about the warranty, refurbished should be fine.

  • I was really hoping Casio would have purchased Pebble. I really enjoy my G-Shock and there are..were many features of the Pebble I would like to see in a Casio watch. I feel this was a missed opportunity for Casio to come up to parity in the market.

    The Casio WSD is a minor movement in smart wearable technology and it's a one trick GPS pony. Kazuhiro Kashio needs to adopt Android into their portfolio of technology for their new watches. Else their G-Shock series and WSD series of watches will start to fee
  • Funny thing about Pebble is that they weren't a "smart watch" company. They were a data mining Silicon Valley company. Pebble was looking for more data scientists than they were giving a damn about making a hardware product. I met a few of them.

    The hardware product was just barely a thing to allow them to collect the data they wanted (where their real attempt at money was in data collection and sales). "Big Data" is going belly up it seems.
    • What data were they collecting? There weren't any shopping apps or anything like that, and pebble User ID's were email addresses, not linked to anything significant.

  • I read this blog post and wish I could get a refund for the minute of my time wasted on this companies rank nonsense.

    They dump everything, say you should expect what you purchased to fail to work properly, assert all warranties retroactively null and void attempting to zero out all outstanding liabilities... They then sell all assets to another company and finally have the guts to promote that new company.

    If I owned a pebble I would sue them to just to prove a point. There is something really wrong with t

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt AT nerdflat DOT com> on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @03:59PM (#53442631) Journal
    So saying by March 2017 isn't really that out of sync.
  • I've wanted a Pebble for a while after playing with one in the store. I actually liked it better and the Apple Watch and Android offerings. Sad to see them go. Maybe I can pick one up cheap now.

  • by j2.718ff ( 2441884 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2016 @05:38PM (#53443289)

    I own an original Pebble from Kickstarter, which I bought before owning a compatible smartphone. Since I'm into running, I ended up replacing my Pebble with a Garmin smartwatch that also provided GPS and a heartrate monitor. (Were I not into running, I'd still be using that original Pebble, since it did everything else I wanted.) I feel like Pebble really started the smart watch revolution, and they did it right -- a simple watch that works with your phone, without attempting to replace it. Unfortunately for them, once the idea was out, any other company could copy it, and that's exactly what happened.

    Sadly, the first to market is rarely the one who lasts the longest. Hydrox is gone, but Oreos are here to stay.

  • I will boycott fitbit if they completely kill off pebble support and don't open source code either.

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