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The inside story behind Pebble's demise
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-13 10:09:52

"Adventuresome" is perhaps a kind way of describing Pebble's year: 2016 started in crisis. The year before, the once-profitable company dropped into the red, and hit the second half 2015 by not meeting its sales goals. Pebble would never be profitable again. In March of 2016, Migicovsky laid off a quarter of his staff of 160, just as the company moved from its cramped, loft-like Palo Alto headquarters into a gleaming, spacious new office tower in downtown Redwood City. In its optimism, the company had rented two floors; now it fit on just one.

It turned out that both Pebble - and, incidentally, Apple - had misjudged the wearables market. The idea of an iPhone on the wrist hasn't caught on. The one killer app for wrist devices, at least so far, seems to be fitness. Active people find it useful to wear something that quantifies your biometrics and tracks your runs. Apple's emphasis on fashion and Pebble's on productivity and third-party innovation were costly detours - the smartwatch market is rooted in health and fitness. "We learned late, and Apple is learning this as well," says Migicovsky. (He acknowledges that notifications are perhaps the other key function smartwatches perform.) "We did not get this in 2014 - if we had come out then as the smartwatch fitness wearable, maybe it would be a bit different."

It seems my doubts about the viability of the smartwatch market are turning out to be on point. Just as I predicted - turns out people really don't want to strap an ugly calculator on their wrists, not even when it has a shiny Apple logo.

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