What it is: Fitbit recently announced a delay in their upcoming Smartwatch.
Fitbit is trying to release a smartwatch complete with its own apps, but they announced a delay in their project. The big problem Fitbit and other companies face when competing against Apple is that they try to control both hardware and software. Instead of using Android Wear like other companies, Fitbit wants to create their own operating system just like Apple. The big difference is that they must also attract developers and provide a software framework to allow developers to link into the operating system. More importantly, they must also demonstrate there’s a large enough market to attract customers so the developers can profit from their products.
Fitbit has a loyal following of customers, but to create a new FitBit operating system means they must convince developers that there’s also a market for selling apps. There may be, but one of the huge advantages the Apple Watch has is that it links seamlessly with the iPhone and Macintosh. For Fitbit to duplicate this, they’ll need to make the FitBit work with smartphones and personal computers, and that means making their operating system work well with Windows and Android.
Trying to introduce a new operating system to the world isn’t easy. Even Palm Computing, which once made one of the most popular smartphones in the world, had trouble keeping their PalmOS operating system current to the point where Palm even licensed Windows Mobile for their smartphones. For FitBit to succeed with their own operating system is a huge undertaking with no guarantee of success.
Samsung tried to break away from Android with the Tizen operating system, but Tizen still hasn’t attracted much developer support. Without developers, Tizen smartphones can’t attract customers because of the lack of apps. Without apps, customers won’t choose a Tizen smartphone and without customers, developers won’t choose Tizen either.
The same dilemma faces FitBit. Right now, FitBit succeeds by offering a low cost wearable computer. Add its own operating system with apps and now the cost of the wearable goes up. People aren’t buying FitBits right now for apps because there are none for current FitBits. If FitBit adds apps, will that encourage more people to buy FitBits?
Right now the Apple Watch has plenty of apps, but its app store is nowhere near as prosperous as the iPhone/iPad app store. The Apple Watch succeeds because it’s more than a fitness tracker. For people who just want a fitness tracker, FitBit is fine. For people who want more than a fitness tracker, the Apple Watch is fine. How many people want the features of an Apple Watch but in a FitBit instead?
FitBit is struggling to compete against the Apple Watch for the same reason that Blackberry and Nokia struggled to compete against the iPhone and Microsoft struggled to compete against the iPad. They’re simply too late. When you see other companies struggling to compete against Apple, that’s when you know Apple has a hit product on their hands.
The iPhone killed Blackberry, Palm, and Nokia. The iPad killed the entire netbook industry. The Apple Watch is now killing wearable fitness trackers like FitBit (Pebble is already gone). Watch the struggling industries and then look for the leaders such as iTunes helping kill off music stores and Amazon helping kill Borders Books.
In any market, there’s always a leader and a lot of has-beens. If the future is any indication, FitBit’s project will likely get delayed to the point where it doesn’t work that well and feels half-completed, much like Blackberry’s Storm smartphone that offered a touch screen like the iPhone but was buggy and not as good. FitBit is good, but their future doesn’t look very promising.