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It's official: Google has acquired Fitbit (Update: DOJ is still investigating)
- The long-gestating Google Fitbit deal is now complete.
- In its announcement of the news, Google emphasized that the deal is about “devices, not data.”
- Fitbit’s CEO also emphasized that user data will not be used for Google’s ad revenue, and assured users many of the things they know and love will stay the same.
Update, January 14, 2021 (12:43 PM ET): The news below makes it seem like the Google/Fitbit deal is secured. However, the United States Justice Department’s investigation into the acquisition is still ongoing. This raises doubts on whether the deal will sail on without any more troubles.
The DOJ gave the following statement to a few publications (h/t Android Police):
The Antitrust Division’s investigation of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit remains ongoing. Although the Division has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action, the Division continues to investigate whether Google’s acquisition of Fitbit may harm competition and consumers in the United States. The Division remains committed to conducting this review as thoroughly, efficiently, and expeditiously as possible.
However, it appears the time limit for a decision with that ongoing investigation has passed. According to a Google statement sent to Android Authority, the company felt comfortable moving forward with today’s announcement regardless of the DOJ formalizing a decision on the purchase. Here’s the Google statement:
We complied with the DOJ’s extensive review for the past 14 months, and the agreed upon waiting period expired without their objection. We continue to be in touch with them and we’re committed to answering any additional questions. We are confident this deal will increase competition in the highly crowded wearables market, and we’ve made commitments that we plan to implement globally.
This essentially boils down to the DOJ having agreed to a time limit on delivering a decision on its antitrust investigation into this deal. Google asserts that that date has since passed, giving the company the authority to move forward with the purchase. The DOJ, however, says that it is still investigating. This is something a lawyer would need to weigh in on, but it seems like this deal isn’t quite as done as Google and Fitbit say it is.
Original article, January 14, 2021 (09:26 AM ET): Today, both Google and Fitbit formally announced the former’s acquisition of the latter. This deal has been in the works for over a year now. It positions Fitbit as a Google company but independent in operation. This is not unlike how Nest had been for several years after its acquisition in 2014.
Rick Osterloh penned Google’s announcement of the deal. In his letter, he emphasized that “users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads.” He also explained that this is a binding commitment to make the deal happen, which means it is not a hollow promise.
Likewise, Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park penned a similar letter detailing the deal. In his statement, he used the exact same language as Osterloh to assure users that Google won’t be using people’s health data for monetary gain.
Google Fitbit deal: What could it mean?
In his letter, Osterloh said that this deal is about “devices, not data.” This is probably the most important statement surrounding this acquisition. It heavily suggests that Google is looking to Fitbit to bolster its wearable hardware ambitions more than anything else.
The wearable market has never seen a Google-branded device, even though the market is booming. There have long been rumors of a so-called Pixel Watch, but they’ve never materialized. With the Wear OS platform stagnant, this Google Fitbit deal is an easy solution to the big G’s biggest problem in wearables: no hardware.
Fitbit has already brought Google Assistant to its two biggest 2020 launches: the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3. Going forward, we can expect to see Assistant and other Google products appear on Fitbit devices.
In his letter, Park makes it clear that “many of the things you know and love about Fitbit will remain the same.” However, it’s only a matter of time before Fitbit becomes more and more Google-ified. We’ll need to wait and see how that pans out.