Fitbit Buying Smartwatch Maker Pebble’s Software, Hiring Engineers

Image courtesy of Pebble

Smartwatches and other wearables just haven’t caught on as much as the electronics industry assumed that they would. Pebble — a smartwatch company most famous for pre-selling its products on Kickstarter only to then make sure that Best Buy shoppers got their orders first — has confirmed that it is shutting down and selling off its various assets. You can now count Fitbit among the scavengers picking at Pebble’s bones.

The companies made the rumored sale official today, with Pebble announcing that “due to various factors” the four-year-old company “is no longer able to operate as an independent entity.”

That doesn’t mean that Pebble devices will stop working, which is an understandable fear in the Internet of Things era. Part of the agreement between Fitbit and Pebble is that Pebble devices will keep working under the new owners.

“Our new mission will focus on bringing Pebble’s unique wearables expertise to future Fitbit products,” the company explained in an announcement today on Kickstarter. The team also wants to make the existing Pebble products rely less on cloud services, which would keep watches operating even if Fitbit were to stop supporting the products or go out of business itself.

Fitbit, is trying to expand into markets that don’t involve selling trackers directly to consumers, and had trouble early on with its 2016 slate of products.

Bloomberg estimates that the deal was for less than $40 million, and Pebble will sell off its existing inventory and hardware operations separately.

The shutdown means that two out of Pebble’s planned new products for 2016 have been canceled, and backers will receive refunds for the Pebble Core, Time 2, and Time Round.

About 40% of Pebble employees have received job offers from Fitbit so far, but most of them are software engineers. Fitbit is not interested in hiring people who work on hardware or on interface design, but does want to let the community of third-party Pebble developers keep doing their thing.