Pebble Founder Eric Migicovsky Not Shaken By Samsung Galaxy Gear And Smartwatch Competition

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Founder of smartwatch startup Pebble Eric Migicovsky took the stage at Disrupt, interviewed by our own John Biggs. He addressed head on the recently revealed competition from smartphone giant Samsung, and talked about what Pebble does that no other competitors out there have necessarily nailed down, and why he thinks their approach will continue to prevail despite mounting interest from top-tier, established hardware makers.

Migicovsky said that everyone seems to be ignoring the reason that Pebble was a success to begin with, which mainly has to do with identifying use cases for a wearable device. He argued that a smartwatch should “flow into the background” of a user’s life, and that the way to convince people to put one on is to show them how it can be useful to their life, but at the same time essentially become a background process, rather than something that requires major changes in how you live on a daily basis.

Asked directly about competitors, Migicovsky was quick to point out that OEMs have been making smartwatches for years, including Samsung, LG, Sony, Motorola and many others. Once again, he argues that all those companies are ignoring the reasons that people are interested in smartwatches to begin with – they want something that will “mesh into your life,” have long battery life, and not have to be babied and coddled for fear of getting it wet or inadvertently smashing it up.

The overall vision for the Pebble is one of a “thin client,” Migicovsky says. “We think the best computer you have is the one sitting in your pocket,” he argues, referring to the smartphones most of us now carry. Those have great screens, touch input, 3G and 4G connectivity and more. There’s no need to replicate that, but instead the real opportunity is to build a control device not only for that phone, but for other connected devices in your life, too. He mentioned wrist-based thermostat control, as well as connection with bike sharing terminals, and pointed to the RunKeeper integration as a perfect example of how they envision Pebble slotting into people’s lives.

For those who haven’t tried it out, RunKeeper’s Pebble integration replaces the screen when you start the app and start a run from your phone, showing you distance travelled, pace and more. Ideally that’s how Pebble would work on a much broader basis, becoming contextually the most appropriate tool for whatever you’re doing, whenever you’re doing it.

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That’s why when Biggs asked him about Pebble 2.0, or what the next-generation device would look like, Migicovsky demurred and said it’s the same hardware you currently have on your wrist. Software is the next stage for Pebble, he contends, with the ultimate aim being partnering with developers to build out that ecosystem and help Pebble work with plenty of sensor and new apps to become a more generally useful tool for any given context.

Migicovsky also dodged a second attempt to get details of next-gen hardware when Biggs framed a question in light of Apple’s rumored iWatch. The Pebble founder wouldn’t speculate as to how Pebble might have to change to compete with an Apple wearable, and reiterated that software is the future. Of course, it’s never good policy for a device maker with something currently on shelves to talk about next-generation products, but for now at least, Migicovsky and Pebble seem to be all about developing the software ecosystem to explore the full potential of what they’ve already built.


Backstage Interview