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29 July 2017

Fitbit’s next-gen watch will launch with its own app platform

Fitbit desperately needs its upcoming smartwatch to be a success, so the company is planning to prop it up with a brand-new app platform at launch. 

James Park, Fitbit’s CEO, confirmed that a new app ecosystem is in the works for the unnamed smartwatch’s long-awaited debut in a conversation with The Verge. The app platform has been rumored since January, even before Park first teased the device after the company was forced to lay off 6 percent of its workforce. 

Park told the publication that the app platform will launch alongside the smartwatch, complete with a number of programs specially created by partners for the device. There will also be a new SDK, which will be open to developers shortly after the release, and users will be able to purchase and download the new apps they create via some kind of “app gallery” to be included in the larger Fitbit app.

Fitbit will finally make use of Pebble, the Kickstarter darling DIY smartwatch brand that Fitbit purchased in 2016. The SDK is purportedly based on the acquired software, which Park and Fitbit head of software engineering Thomas Sarlandie claim will give independent developers a shot at creating apps for the smartwatch that will work on the Android and iOS devices that will be linked to the Fitbit app ecosystem.

There aren’t many details about the apps that will be available at launch, outside of Park’s comments about how music will be integrated into the experience. “All we can say at this point is that music is a really important part of the fitness experience, and you’ll see functionality related to that,” he told The Verge.

Fitbit’s reps confirmed to Mashable via email that an app platform is indeed in the works, but didn’t provide any other comment about the smartwatch.

Park didn’t provide a target date for the smartwatch’s unveiling, let alone a release date, which isn’t reassuring given the product’s (rumored) checkered development history. We’ve heard reports about software and hardware hangups for months now, and leaked photos of the device and comments from Fitbit employees deeming it “definitely not sexy” 

The new device will be Fitbit’s first foray into the general smartwatch market after losing ground to Apple as the top wearable maker in the world. The Blaze, a fitness-first gadget that was packaged as a watch, is more in line with the company’s other products than competitors like the Apple Watch. 

The smartwatch will have to be a hit to keep Fitbit afloat in the new market for wearables, which is expected to double by 2021 as consumers find more uses for their gadgets. The company is banking on its apps to lead to success in the fitness-focused market — but it’ll have to actually bring something to the table to have any chance in the future.

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