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Fitbit Buys Pebble, Closes It Down: Bad News For Current Users (And A Warning To The fake watch Industry)

Following quickly on the acquisition of its software by Fitbit (as reported by Bloomberg), Pebble has now announced it has ceased operations. The acquisition was of Pebble's software only; the company's remaining assets will be sold to cover its debt. Here's what it means for current users (and yes, it's bad). Pebble says on its blog that:

"Backers (on Pebble's Kickstarter) will get refunds for any unfulfilled rewards. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, we were excited to bring Pebble 2, Time 2, and Core to the world. We've since shipped every Pebble 2 possible, but can't say the same for the remaining rewards. Pebble Time 2, Pebble Core, and Pebble Time Round Kickstarter Editions will not go into final production."

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Current owners' Pebble smartwatches are no longer supported; Pebble says, "Active Pebble replica watches will work normally for now. Functionality or service quality may be reduced down the road. We don't expect to release regular software updates or new Pebble features."

According to the report by Bloomberg, the deal is worth "less than $40 million," which is a whole lot less than previous valuation. Pebble is said to have been offered $740m by watchmaker Citizen in 2015, and $70m by Intel in early 2016. Pebble's chief executive, Eric Migicovsky, refused both offers.

The report goes on to say that Fitbit has not yet offered Pebble employees any jobs, except for the software engineering team, which it has already folded into its own.

For more information on the deal, and how it might affect users, please read Pebble's full statement, which outlines next steps for Pebble's team, as well as containing full refund and support information for Kickstarter backers and current Pebble owners. When Pebble ran its first Kickstarter campaign in 2012, it raised $10.3 million, which was the largest sum ever raised on Kickstarter and by December of 2014 it had sold its millionth watch. The rapid decline and demise of Pebble shows just how challenging the smartwatch industry has become; Techcrunch says, "Pebble winding down is, inevitably, a high-profile disappointment for crowdfunding ?whose platforms hold out the promise of a leg up for small innovators, yet have fewer solutions for longer term business sustainability in the face of more powerful market forces."

While the Swiss fake watch industry, and makers of conventional replica watches at entry price points, may indeed face a threat from smartwatches, there's a lesson here as well, we think, about just what it takes to succeed with a connected device ?though many fake watch brands are rolling out connected fake watch and smartwatch solutions, the closure of Pebble shows that just having a connected fake watch is not a magic bullet either.

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