Pebble smartwatch maker will shut down and sell its intellectual property to Fitbit

Pebble Technology Corp., one of the first companies to manufacture smartwatches, said it will shut down and sell its software and intellectual property to Fitbit Inc., which also plans to hire some of Pebble’s “key personnel.”

“Due to various factors, Pebble is no longer able to operate as an independent entity,” Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky said in a blog post published Wednesday on the Palo Alto company’s website.“We have made the tough decision to shut down the company and no longer manufacture Pebble devices."

Migicovsky did not explain why Pebble could no longer operate independently, and the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As part of the shutdown, Pebble will stop selling and promoting its line of smartwatches. Pebble watches already out in the world will continue to work “as normal," but “functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future,” Migicovsky said. 

Those who helped fund the watch on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter who have not yet received their backer rewards — perks given in exchange for financial support — are to receive full refunds. 

Fitbit, the publicly traded fitness tracker firm, confirmed it will snap up Pebble’s “key personnel and intellectual property related to software and firmware development,” but the acquisition excludes hardware.

The San Francisco company wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal because “the acquisition is not material to Fitbit’s financials,” Fitbit spokeswoman Paula Conhain said in an email. 

For many in the technology industry, Pebble’s sale and shutdown seemed inevitable after major firms such as Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google threw their hats into the smartwatch ring.

Despite offering the first smartwatch that enabled users to receive phone notifications on their watch, send and receive text messages from their wrist and change their digital watch faces using software, Pebble was dealt a blow when Google released Android Wear in 2014 and Apple launched the Apple Watch last year.

Analysts noted that the company lacked the resources to compete with the likes of Apple and Google and that it failed to attract and keep a large enough audience.

“Pebble had first-mover advantage, but what they lost sight of was they needed to build a relevant ecosystem,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. “They did not, and they didn’t add enough incremental value to overcome the lack of a robust ecosystem.”

The company helped put smartwatches on the tech radar in 2012 when it launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of the first Pebble watch. The campaign raised more than $10 million in 30 days, making it one of the most successful Kickstarter fundraisers at the time.

The company attracted a loyal following of early adopters, but it struggled to crack the mainstream market. 

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