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Home / Technology / Google said it would close the Fitbit acquisition-well, without the approval of the US Department of Justice?

Google said it would close the Fitbit acquisition-well, without the approval of the US Department of Justice?

Google hardware senior vice president Rick Osterloh (Rick Osterloh) announced on Thursday that Google has completed the acquisition of Fitbit. The $2.1 billion transaction was announced in November 2019 and launched a regulatory review process by governments around the world that involves Google’s impact on the Internet and the user data it can collect.

Usually, Osterloh announces that “Google has completed the acquisition of Fitbit, and I would like to personally welcome this talented team to Google”, which means that Google has cleared its global regulatory measures. The news that Google announced today is very unusual because the US Department of Justice has not yet approved the transaction. As the US Department of Justice told the New York Times reporter Cecilia Kang, “The Antitrust Department’s investigation into Google’s acquisition of Fitbit is still ongoing.” Australian regulators have not yet announced a final decision on the merger. . Google’s doing such a thing when dealing with the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation seems particularly enlightening.

When asked about the status of the Department of Justice’s combined investigation, a Google spokesperson told Ars: “We have complied with the extensive review conducted by the Department of Justice in the past 14 months, and the agreed waiting period expires without their objection. We Keep in touch with us. They promise to resolve all other issues. We believe this transaction will increase competition in the highly crowded wearables market, and we have made a commitment to plan to implement it globally.”

Regardless of how the legal issues are resolved, the announcement does not fully explain Google’s Fitbit future plans. Osterloh first praised Fitbit’s existing product line, calling it Fitbit Sense smartwatch, Inspire 2 tracker and various Fitbit health indicators. Google is not a cheap fitness tracker, but the company’s Google Fit application has a lot of overlap in smart watches and health indicators. Google expressed its hope to “make it easier for more people to get health.” “We are confident that Fitbit’s leading technology, product expertise and health innovation will be combined with Google’s best AI, software and hardware to promote more competitive wearables. Equipment to make the next generation of equipment better and more affordable.”

Fitbit’s CEO, President and Co-founder James Park also published a blog post today, saying: “Many things you know and love about Fitbit will remain the same. We will continue to work on doing the right thing to ensure Your health and wellness are at the core of what we do, and provide a “cookie cutter” approach, and provide options for Android and iOS.”

Fitbit and Google overlap

Fossil Gen 5 LTE is a Wear OS smartwatch, released in 2021, and its CPU is the same as the 2014 smartwatch.
enlarge / Fossil Gen 5 LTE is a Wear OS smartwatch, released in 2021, and its CPU is the same as the 2014 smartwatch.


Google’s existing wearable device platform Wear OS seems to be dead. The last major update of the operating system was in 2018. Before that, Wear OS had never had a solid hardware foundation to build. Qualcomm (Android’s main SoC supplier) never gave Wear OS a chance, but chose to suppress the smart watch platform with an absolutely bad SoC version. Since the advent of Wear OS in 2014, Qualcomm’s marketing department has created Snapdragon 400, Wear 2100 and Wear 3100, but in essence, they are all quad-core Cortex A7 SoCs built on a 28nm manufacturing process. Until the release of Wear 4100 in 2020, Qualcomm released a wearable device SoC, and its benchmark test will be higher than the original chip in 2014.

On the other hand, Wear OS’s main competitor, Apple Watch, has the luxury of Apple’s internal SoC department, which regularly improves performance every year. Apple did not officially talk about chip specifications, but it said that the latest Apple Watch S6 SoC is based on A13 Bionic, and since A13 is 7nm, S6 is also very likely. As a SoC based on 12nm quad-core Cortex A53, Snapdragon Wear 4100 is still not competitive with Apple’s products, while Qualcomm only promised to increase performance by 85% compared to seven years ago. But when you starve to death, everything looks like a delicious meal.

Google Fit has become a victim of Google’s impulse: the company Say It cares about a certain market, but it seems unable to maintain the focus, operation and good support of its products in these markets. Wear OS used to have a first-class weight training tracking function that can automatically detect and record exercises, but Google inexplicably terminated the function about two months ago. There used to be a Google Fit website, such as Fitbit, that would display all your statistics on a large dashboard, but due to years of neglect, Google shut it down in early 2019. It ultimately never supported the Wear OS weight tracking and other features launched in 2017.

Google Fit app.
enlarge / Google Fit app.


Both Google and Fitbit did not mention Google Fit and Wear OS in their announcements on Thursday.

Fitbit is not instilled in the medical field. Although the company was a pioneer in the original pedometer market and could (maybe) be considered a valuable brand, Fitbit’s market share has fallen to single digits due to increased competition. Apple is attacking it from the high end through the Apple Watch, while Chinese companies such as Xiaomi dominate the market for cheap step counters. How the Fitbit/Google team will resolve one of these issues is unclear. It will not provide the stable, competitive hardware platform they desperately need for Google smart watches. This deal is more like two top-ranked companies working together to survive.

Privacy and the example left by Nest

The big question about the Fitbit acquisition (same as the previous Nest acquisition) is how Google will handle all of Fitbit’s data. This issue is the main battlefield during the EU’s investigation of the transaction, and Google has made some commitments to the EU to get the transaction approved.

Google mentioned this aspect in a blog post, Osterloh said: “This transaction has always been about the device, not the data. From the very beginning, it was clear that we will protect the privacy of Fitbit users… Fitbit users’ health data It will not be used for Google advertising, and the data will be separated from other Google advertising data.” Google also stated that it will not take any crazy actions against Android, such as locking all Android phones only to Fitbit wearable devices, which is obviously the European Union Worried about.

The European Union agreed with this and said the same thing to a large extent, and pointed out: “Google will technically separate user data related to Fitbit. The data will be stored in a’data warehouse’, which will be combined with other Google data. Separately used for advertising.” This sounds a lot like the data separation guarantee provided by Google for Nest. Google said it will “keep video material, recordings and readings of home environment sensors separate from advertising.” The EU also stated that Google is committed to allowing third parties to access Fitbit data through the Fitbit Web API. Google’s commitment period is 10 years.

Of course, existing Fitbit data needs to be protected, if you want to do this, you can delete your Fitbit account here. Looking to the future, Fitbit’s fitness tracking and Google’s Wear OS fitness tracking are so similar that Google has not really gained a new data stream from the Fitbit acquisition. A new product area may be a cheap Fitbit-style counter, but Android smart phones can already do this, and Android smart watches can also do it. With the help of the existing Fitbit user base, Google will gain more users, but as we have already said, since all competitors have already joined, this is not very big.

What happens to Fitbit accounts remains a big question. If we follow Nest’s story, it merged with Google in 2018 after failing as an independent Alphabet company for a few years, then Fitbit users could undergo major changes. Nest users discovered that the Nest account system was killed and had to be forced to migrate to a unified Google account. This also resulted in the loss of the “Works with Nest” API, thereby breaking compatibility with other devices and services. As a brand, Nest was hollowed out and used in Google’s general smart home brand, replacing Google Home speakers, smart displays and Wi-Fi access points, while still being used on original Nest products such as thermostats, cameras and smoke detectors .

Of course, branded devices made by Google Fitbit seem to eventually arrive, and Google may enter the cheaper fitness tracker market. However, this does not solve any problems preventing Google from competing for wearable devices. When Google and Fitbit were unable to compete with Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi, respectively, it was not clear why they thought their odds would be better.

Ars policy reporter Kate Cox contributed to this report.

Fitbit list image

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