Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fitbit CEO Says Apple Is Doing Wearables Wrong. What's the Right Way?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fitbit CEO Says Apple Is Doing Wearables Wrong. What's the Right Way?

Article excerpt

It's the chicken-or-egg discussion of the 21st-century: Is wearable technology a smartphone slapped on the wrist, or is it a clothing line that just happens to contain greater computing power than the original space shuttle?

The executive of Fitbit is arguing that his company's slim bracelets represent an entirely different - and superior - approach to answering that question than the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch represents a "computing platform," but Fitbit Chief Executive James Park says this is the wrong approach to wearable technology.

"That's really the wrong way to approach this category from the very beginning," Mr. Park told The New York Times.

It's a strong statement, not to mention a marketing gamble in a competitive field. Fitbit's approach is a smaller, single-purpose product designed to gather different types of health data about an individual. The approach is being replicated with a variety of tracking devices, for more than just the wrist. Park said his company's goal is not to build toward Apple Watch computing power, but rather to cultivate the less expensive device's purpose as technology improves.

"We're going to be very careful with how we include these things over time," he told the Times. "I think one of the general knocks against smartwatches is that people still don't know what they're good for, so they've crammed everything in."

The less-is-more strategy is seeing some success among consumers. Fitbit almost doubled the number of devices sold between 2014 and 2015, jumping from 10.9 million to 21.3 devices and making it "the undisputed worldwide leader of wearable devices," researchers from IDC wrote in a press release.

But Fitbit's approach carries risks as well, Brian Chen wrote for The New York Times. Cisco's Flip camcorder and GoPro's action camera are single-purpose devices that have not launched as expected, because people wanted a device that could do it all. …

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