Stop telling me what Pebble did wrong. They were the first to the market with a smartwatch and had the temerity to believe that their primary business was selling watches. Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky cannot be blamed for that. I still believe their product is just so ”right” in so many ways that it will live on somehow, much the same way so much of what made Palm WebOS so right lived on with Matias Duarte at Google.
So where did Pebble go wrong? Well, the business model of owning the whole ecosystem and making a profit selling $200 (give or take) devices doesn’t work unless you can scale like Apple. I’m not even sure it makes sense then. One is only left to believe that Pebble’s business plan was to continue to build with additional investor money until such time as it either scaled to profitability or hit on a monetization strategy that would work with their assets. Such strategies may have included:
- Licensing the OS (an expensive component of their costs) to third parties.
- Additional (freemium?) services such as cloud integration products.
The entrance of industry heavyweights into the market polluted the space with ill-conceived products that killed any momentum the smartwatch category had within a year. This resulted in the evaporation of investor confidence that directly impacted Pebble’s sustainment until the above desired inflection point. At that point, a late pivot to grab some of fitbit’s magic was never going to work, even if it had succeeded. There just isn’t enough revenue at this time to support a real hardware and development team. Now fitbit has some assets it cherry picked at a discount to use to explore “smartifying” its existing product line and perhaps buy time to create a sustainable ecosystem around the Pebble OS. I wish them well, but they’ll probably need to think outside of the recreational fitness box.
When all is said and done, the established smartwatch ecosystem, Apple and the Android players, are struggling to find a raison d’être for their participation in the market and fail (IMHO) at a watch’s most basic task — being a good watch. This is something the Pebble watches have all done well from the start.