After much fanfare the Pebble smartwatch made the leap from fanciful concept to full-fledged product earlier this year, but now that units have started to ship and people have started to wear them, what’s Pebble’s next step?
Why, enticing developers, of course. Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky noted in a backer update video released earlier this morning that an early version of the smartwatch’s watchface SDK would be made available to would-be Pebble developers during the second week of April.
And when I say “early version,” I mean early version. At this stage it’s being looked at as more a proof-of-concept release than anything else, and Migicovsky points out that there’s a “99% chance” that the team will revamp some of the underlying APIs involved. What’s more, anyone expecting the ability to use the SDK preview to tap into the Pebble’s sensors and radios (like the accelerometer for tracking movement) will come away disappointed — the release is geared strictly toward new watchfaces, though Migicovsky says that games are also fair game as they rely mostly on button inputs.
The early SDK has been in testing with “hacker” backers — a group of about 100 people who pledged $235 or more for the privilege of early tinkering rights — for the past few months, and some of the apps they’ve created will be released alongside the SDK. The most notable new app? A low-res (and therefore faithful) reproduction of Snake that hearkens back to Nokia’s feature phone glory days.
Granted, new watchfaces may not seem like the most crucial addition even to Pebble buffs, but the impending release marks a pretty dramatic shift in scope for the Pebble team. What once started as a company whose daily operations were completely dictated by the need to manufacture and ship over $10 million worth of gadgets is now a company gearing up to focus on the next stage of the Pebble’s life cycle: building up the app ecosystem so the value of owning a Pebble extends beyond the wow factor of wearing a tiny e-paper display on your wrist. Migicovsky concedes that Pebble hasn’t “done the best job so far of communicating with developers,” but the team looks very willing to change that — hopefully a full-blown version of the SDK shows up sooner rather than later.