The move comes with the internet search leader seeking to expand further into hardware. Also, Fitbit struggles against rivals including Apple.
In a statement by the two firms announcing the deal, Fitbit co-founder and chief executive James Park said:
“We have built a trusted brand that supports more than 28 million active users around the globe who rely on our products to live a healthier, more active life. Google is an ideal partner to advance our mission.”
Rick Osterloh, Google senior vice president for devices and services, said the deal means “bringing together the best hardware, software and AI” to bring more wearables to the marketplace.
In a blog post, Osterloh said:
“Google aspires to create tools that help people enhance their knowledge, success, health and happiness. This goal is closely aligned with Fitbit’s long-time focus on wellness and helping people live healthier, more active lives.”
The companies said the Fitbit platform would remain “platform-agnostic”. This means it will continue to serve Apple’s iOS devices as well as those powered by the Google Android system.
Fitbit losing ground
Fitbit helped popularise fitness bands and trackers. Nevertheless, it has lost ground in recent years to rivals in the wearables market.
A survey by research firm IDC for the second quarter of 2019 found Fitbit in fourth place in a market led by China’s Xiaomi leading the global market. Apple, which makes the leading smartwatch, followed closely and then Chinese-based Huawei.
Fitbit introduced its own smartwatch in 2017. However, it has failed to keep pace with the Apple Watch, which shook up the market after its introduction in 2015.
Google currently faces pressure from regulators around the world over its dominance of internet search. Hence, it has been boosting its hardware offerings, including a line of Pixel smartphones and tablets, along with connected speakers.
The Alphabet unit is largely absent from wearables gadgetry, following its failed Google Glass project. But the company produces the WearOS software used by makers of these devices.
Keep data safe
The companies said they would take steps to protect user data after the tie-up, and that Fitbit data would not be used for ad targeting by Google.
The company said,
“Fitbit will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why. The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”
Still, analysts pointed out that Google may benefit from the large Fitbit database for health apps and artificial intelligence.
“Google is acquiring customers and data,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy. “I think it’s a good move given Google has failed so far in wearables and Apple is so far ahead with Watch.”
Avi Greengart of the consultancy Techsponential said Google will benefit from Fitbit’s strong brand. The deal “gets Google market penetration much faster than if it built its own fitness or smartwatch hardware,” Greengart said.