In a significant shake-up, Google has confirmed the departure of Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman, alongside a substantial downsizing of its augmented reality (AR) division. This move marks a pivotal moment for Fitbit, a company Google acquired four years ago for approximately $2.1 billion.
As originally reported by 9to5Google and confirmed by The Verge, the company is reorganising its Devices & Services teams. This is the part of Google that is responsible for Fitbit hardware, along with Pixel and Nest devices. All of their teams are being combined into one unit now. And employees are being laid off as part of this reshuffle.
This is what Google says:
“A few hundred roles are being eliminated in DSPA with the majority of impacts on the 1P AR Hardware team. While we are making changes to our 1P AR hardware team, Google continues to be deeply committed to other AR initiatives, such as AR experiences in our products, and product partnerships.”
The end of an era for Fitbit?
The confirmation of the departure of James Park and Eric Friedman, key architects of Fitbit’s success, casts a shadow of uncertainty over the brand’s future trajectory.
Under Google’s stewardship, Fitbit has experienced a significant shift in its operational strategy. This is most apparent in the company’s product release schedule. In a marked departure from its tradition of launching multiple devices each year, 2023 saw the introduction of only the Charge 6. This change in strategy seems to signal a pivot towards enhancing the Pixel Watch line, potentially at the expense of future Fitbit innovations. Amidst this strategic shift, the anticipated launch of the Luxe 2 stands out as a solitary upcoming release.
Throughout 2023, Fitbit actively focused on refining its smartphone application. However, its user community did not universally welcome these changes. Several multi-day service outages and the controversial removal of features from Fitbit devices, among other issues, marred the year. These developments hinted at underlying changes within the company, leading to speculation and concern among its user base.
Google’s approach to acquisitions
Google has said that Fitbit will continue to live on. However its history with acquisitions involves significant restructuring or discontinuation of products. This pattern raises concerns about Fitbit’s long-term presence within Google. The recent layoffs and leadership changes could be indicative of a similar fate for Fitbit, aligning with Google’s broader business strategies but potentially at the cost of the Fitbit brand’s unique identity.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
A wave of dissatisfaction has emerged among Fitbit users, with many voicing their grievances on social media platforms. Users have reported issues ranging from reduced functionality to the removal of beloved features, fostering a sense of abandonment. This discontent reflects the challenges Google faces in maintaining Fitbit’s established user base while integrating the brand into its hardware ecosystem.
The future of Fitbit under Google
As Google restructures its hardware division, the future of Fitbit remains in limbo. The hope among many users and industry observers is that the wearable brand will continue to innovate. We hope it does not become another entry on the “killed by Google” list, a website chronicling discontinued Google products and services.
The coming months will be crucial in determining Fitbit’s fate. Will it retain its identity or be fully absorbed into Google’s vision for wearable technology? All eyes will be on how the ‘search giant’ navigates these changes and the impact on Fitbit’s legacy and its loyal user base.
Like this article? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and never miss out!