Fitbit operates in the emerging space for fitness trackers. And they are the leader, but (and it’s a big but) they face massive competition from companies in adjacent spaces like Garmin, Jawbone, Samsung, Xiaomi and, of course, Apple. Even scarier, Fitbit has not answered the seminal question:
“Are we in a standalone category or a feature of a bigger category?”
It could turn out that Apple subsumes fitness tracker capabilities into the smartwatch or smartphone in much the same way Microsoft crushed the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software categories when they popularized Microsoft Office. […]
For Fitbit to win they must prove to customers that they solve a problem that encroaching smartwatch and smartphone players can’t. And right now, that’s looking like a tough argument to make.
Smartwatches – at least the Android ones – will eventually rival the price of Fitbit’s high-end products. Fitbit will need to either make smarter products or lower-priced products. It doesn’t appear to have the basis for the former, and it likely won’t have the cost structure for the latter (compared to low-cost rivals). It might just maintain an existence in the US, where its installed base and brand are strong (today). I don’t doubt there will always be some consumers who prefer the Fitbit’s design, user interface, analytics, subscription services, or power efficiency. But, at least in terms of the performance level visible today, Fitbit’s proficiency in those areas doesn’t appear to be unique enough to constitute a protect-able advantage.
Think about the more distant future. In 20 years, if you have (or when you have) a wearable on your wrist, is it more likely to perform a few functions or a broader set of functions (e.g., will it help you communicate)? What kind of affinity will it have for other devices you carry? What type of company is better-positioned to make such a device?