The other day, Google paid $2.1b for Fitbit. The prospect of a Google Fibit got lots of press, most of it dismissive. For good reason. Google’s Wear OS software – powering a range of non-Apple smart watches – is a kludgy disaster. Their Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip delivers sub-par performance. The user interface sucks. The real problem with Google’s wearables strategy? The “do no harm” company is determined to beat Apple at their own game. Wrong answer . . .
The Apple Watch is all things to all people. Fitness, music, scheduling, texts, emails, telephony, menstrual cycle tracking – everything the iPhone can do, the Apple Watch can do. And more, including a heart rate monitor and a fall detector. The only thing the Apple Watch can’t do: sleep tracking. And that’s coming.
If Google thinks it can create a Google Fitbit that can meet or beat the Apple Watch’s versatility, two words: Pixel phone. How’s that working out for you?
When it comes to wearables, Apple has a huge head start in both hardware and software. Cupertino’s worldwide army of engineers and app developers are dead set on maintaining their smart watch market domination, on both fronts.
There is a relatively simple way for Google to take a bite out of Apple Watch sales: nibble. Instead of creating a do-anything or even a do-most-anything-smart watch, Google’s Fitbit should specialize. They should create an entire range of single purpose watches specifically designed for specific needs.
Hiking? Here’s your Garmin Instinct – er, Google Fitbit hiking watch. A dead simple software interface keeps track of your route, position, time, elevation, weather, sunrise and sunset, barometric pressure, steps and heart rate. Emergency? Press a button to activate a rescue beacon. The GF hiking watch should be ergonomic, waterproof and shockproof. And it should look like a hiking watch.
Adding a farrago of other functions – music, phone calls, texts etc. – would make the hiking watch interface confusing and thus harder to use (like Garmin’s products). So . . . don’t do it! Google’s Fitbit range could apply the same philosophy to other case uses: music, bowling, martial artists, cooking blogging, porn – any and all specialized activities.
This is not an expensive proposition – or at least not as expensive as trying to out-Apple Apple. A range of activity-specific Google watches would fit Fitbit’s original, single-minded remit (an exercise monitor). A selection of specialized watches would also be ideal fodder for Google’s micro-targeted marketing.
Admittedly, this smart watch strategy depends on one Mother of All Unknowns. Would consumers be willing to own several specialized watches instead of one Apple Watch with universal utility?
As the owner of several dozen watches, I’m not the best person to ask. But Google should ask someone before they embark on a mega-project to try to beat Apple at their own game. And fail.
Before they write a book on how to piss away $2.1b on a sinking ship, Google needs to contemplate their own simple question: how do you eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time.