Google’s SVP for devices and services Rick Osterloh published a post on the company’s key blog today and reminded everyone that Google would very much like to buy Fitbit. As we already knew and which does not contain any new information. In fact, Google does not want to talk about Fitbit at all: the post is mostly about Europe.
See, the European Commission (EU legislature) tends to react poorly to the almost constant mergers and acquisitions among large technology companies, especially those in the United States. So much so that the EC will launch an investigation into whether a potential sale of Fitbit to Google could lead to Google using all the personal health data to increase its advertising business. The EU Competition Inquiry is expected to run for four months.
Osterloh̵7;s post seems to be aimed at discouraging these investigators and claims that there is healthy competition between Fitbit’s peers, including Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Garmin and the 800 pound gorilla in the portable market, Apple Watch. (Google also mentioned Fossil, but they use Google’s Android based Wear, so … okay?) Osterloh says that “this deal is about devices, not data” and assures the Commission that Google “will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move or delete their data. “
Apparently he said nothing about advertising, the main focus of the competition investigation. Google does not have the best track record in Europe in that arena. Even a few regulators in the United States are not happy about the idea.
The EC investigation is a big deal. Google’s portable division is in trouble when consumers get tired of Wear, and this could reduce access to the European market for a revived range of Fitbit-powered devices. A complete block of the Fitbit acquisition does not seem to be the most likely outcome – the EC tends to go for concessions and agreements rather than outright bans. But in a market, this is liquid and crucial, every week of delay a wasted week.