The kickstarted Pebble smartwatch is now a division of Fitbit, so they may "reduce functionality" on all the watches they ever sold

If you're one of the 60% of Pebble employees who didn't get a job offer from Fitbit, the company's new owner, you're probably not having a great Christmas season -- but that trepedation is shared by 100% of Pebble customers, who've just learned (via the fine print on an update on the Pebble Kickstarter page) that the company may soon "reduce functionality" on their watches.

The watches are among the many cloud-based Internet-of-Things products that are reliant on the ongoing maintenance of server infrastructure for normal functionality. This problem is exacerbated by the widespread IoT deployment of DRM to lock devices into manufacturer-controlled infrastructure -- thanks to laws like section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, developers who create software to replace cloud functions with alternative/self-hosted servers, or with local computing, face potential jail sentences and millions in fines. Add to that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which has been used to threaten and even jail researchers who improved services but violated their terms of service to do so, and the IoT space is the land of the contingent, soon-to-be-bricked devices: memory cards, cars, car batteries, phones, and home automation systems -- not to mention printers.

The company says it wants to revise its watches to work without its cloud, but the best way to do that is to allow anyone to hack it -- release schematics, release sourcecode, open its bootloader, etc.

Active Pebble watches will work normally for now. Functionality or service quality may be reduced down the road. We don’t expect to release regular software updates or new Pebble features. Our new mission will focus on bringing Pebble’s unique wearables expertise to future Fitbit products. We’re also working to reduce Pebble's reliance on cloud services, letting all Pebble models stay active long into the future.

Pebble is joining Fitbit [Pebble/Kickstarter]

(Image: Pebble watch trio, Pebble Technologies, CC-BY-SA; )


Notable Replies

  1. There's a Time Steel sitting wrapped under my tree right now, for me, and I don't know what to do. Should I return it? Should I get something else? There's nothing else in the ~$150 area that I like. I've wanted this darn thing since the Kickstarter but I couldn't fund it at the time.

  2. from what i can tell from reading some developer forums the function reliant on the 'cloud' is the speech-to-text. if you don't plan on using that feature (and it's not really that great IMO) I still would recommend this watch. notifications will still work since thats local to your phone and thats why i wear mine.

    i'm pretty sad about all of this, but it's still and will continue to be a good watch.

  3. This is why I've never trusted the cloud.

    Years ago, other tech geeks and IT folks called me a fuddy-duddy for not embracing the exciting new opportunities the cloud enabled. But in the back of my mind, it was this exact kind of shit that made me utterly distrustful: the possibility that a service, product, device, will one day be rendered useless as a brick because someone out there in internet-land shut down a server.

    Cloud services, like web pages, are transient. Oh sure, the very best news publications will keep all their old materials archived at the same URL (or at least HTTP-redirected to a new location). But anything that resides somewhere else, out of your control, wlll never be truly reliable.

  4. Yeah, the speech to text was worse than useless. Google's is much better than Siri, and even Siri is 10x better than whatever bargain basement piece of trash Pebble was using. Maybe it was old copy of Dragon Dictation running on a Mac under someone's desk.

    So you're not losing much. It's a decent tethered watch otherwise. I liked the original one I got from the Kickstarter back before I learned better about Kickstarters.

  5. Hang on, I've got a list of things that definitely work on my Geocities page.

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