In a recent announcement, Google confirmed a major shakeup within its hardware division, revealing layoffs affecting “a few hundred” employees, with a significant impact on the augmented reality (AR) team, including the departure of Fitbit leaders. The move comes as Google undergoes a broader reorganization of its Devices & Services teams, encompassing Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit.
Fitbit Co-Founders Exit Amidst Layoffs
Fitbit, acquired by Google for $2.1 billion in November 2019, is witnessing a pivotal moment with the departure of key figures, including Fitbit co-founders James Park and Eric Friedman. This news follows concerns raised throughout the past year about Google’s management of Fitbit, leading to speculation about the future of the fitness-tracking giant.
The Fate of Fitbit and Google’s Commitment
Despite the leadership changes and layoffs, Google insists on its commitment to Fitbit’s future. A Google spokesperson mentioned, “We remain very committed to serving our Fitbit users well, innovating in the health space with personal AI, and building on the momentum with Pixel Watch, the redesigned Fitbit app, Fitbit Premium service, and the Fitbit tracker line.”
However, industry observers are raising questions about the survival of Fitbit in its current form, especially considering Google’s recent moves, including pulling Fitbit products from multiple countries.
Uncertainty in Google’s AR Endeavors
Google’s AR efforts have also faced uncertainty following the departure of key personnel, including Clay Bavor, the head of AR technology, last February. The company reportedly terminated its Project Iris, an augmented reality glasses project, many months ago. The departure of Fitbit leaders and the downsizing of the AR team further raise questions about Google’s commitment to developing its AR hardware.
Restructuring Pixel Hardware: Unifying Teams for Efficiency
In addition to the challenges in the AR division, Google is undergoing a significant restructuring of its Pixel, Nest, and Fitbit teams. Previously, these divisions operated independently, but Google is shifting to a functional organization model. This change aims to create more streamlined collaboration across hardware engineering, design, software, and user interface (UI) aspects.
The departure of Fitbit leaders is part of this broader reorganization, and the move suggests that Google is moving away from developing its own AR hardware. Instead, the company appears to be fully embracing the original equipment manufacturer (OEM)-partnership model.
Google’s Commitment Amidst Changes
In response to inquiries about the layoffs and restructuring, Google stated, “We’re responsibly investing in our company’s biggest priorities and the significant opportunities ahead.” The company emphasized its commitment to other AR initiatives, highlighting existing AR features in Lens and Maps, as well as ongoing product partnerships.
As Google navigates through these significant changes, questions linger about the future of Fitbit and the company’s commitment to AR hardware development. The departure of Fitbit leaders, coupled with the restructuring of the AR team, suggests a strategic shift in Google’s approach. Only time will reveal the true impact of these changes on Fitbit users and the broader landscape of Google’s hardware endeavors.