Google has completed its $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit, despite ongoing probes into the deal’s competitive ramifications. Both companies will continue as a single entity. Google reiterates that with the deal, the company does not get hold of customer’s health data. They only want to sell devices.
275 Trillion Steps Worth $2.1 Billion
“I’m writing today to let you know that Fitbit is now officially part of Google”, James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit, wrote in a blog post on Thursday. “It’s an incredibly exciting moment for us as a company and for our Fitbit community of users around the globe.”
Since the launch of the original Fitbit tracker in 2009, Fitbit has sold more than 120 million devices in over 100 countries. Over that period, users lodged 275 trillion steps and over 15 billion hours of sleep. Its latest and most advanced health watch incorporates advanced stress management tools and new ways to manage heart health, including an ECG app.
Google first announced its plans to buy Fitbit in November 2019. The deal that was on the table, which was valued at $2.1 billion, immediately triggered concerns over Google’s market power and the amount of health and wellness data the tech company would get their hands on.
“It’s about devices, not data”
Late last year, EU regulators approved the deal, following an in-depth investigation begun by the EU mid-2020. In the end, Google made a series of binding commitments to get the deal OK’d. They promised to not use any of Fitbit’s health and wellness data for their advertising business. And to store that data in a separate “data silo”.
“This deal has always been about devices, not data, and we’ve been clear since the beginning that we will protect Fitbit users’ privacy”, Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president devices & services, reiterated. “We’ll also continue to work with regulators around the world so that they can be assured that we are living up to these commitments.”
As part of the approval, Google assures that they will continue to support third-party wearables with Android. They will also maintain access through the Fitbit Web API, without charging for access. Anyone who links their wearable to other apps, Strava for example, can therefore continue to do so. Most importantly, EU users will be able to opt-out of any data sharing.
Google agreed to the conditions and will implement the conditions globally “so that all consumers can benefit from them”. The duration of the commitments is ten years. That period may be extended by an additional ten years if the EU can justify “the necessity for such extension”.
Deal Has Not Yet Been Approved Globally
What Google really intends to do with the devices, and what a future line-up will look like, is not yet entirely clear. The Fitbit acquisition can help Google in many ways. First of all, Google will have the resources and know-how to make their own smartwatch. They can also use this knowledge to optimize their own Wear operating system in terms of sporty functions.
“We’re confident the combination of Fitbit’s leading technology, product expertise and health and wellness innovation with the best of Google’s AI, software and hardware will drive more competition in wearables and make the next generation of devices better and more affordable” Rick Osterloh stated.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that the deal has not yet been approved globally. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will continue their investigation and has set a new decision date of 25 March 2021. Several other competition authorities, including the US Department of Justice, also still need to make a decision.
“We complied with the DOJ’s extensive review for the past 14 months”, a Google spokesperson said in reply to a statement by the US Department of Justice, “and the agreed upon waiting period expired without their objection.” In other words, Google think they have waited long enough.