A Conversation with Fitbit CEO and Co-Founder James Park

On the heels of an announcement that Fitbit has partnered with fashion designer Tory Burch for a range of high-fashion wearables, Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park spoke to CES attendees about what else is new for the pioneering fitness activity tracker. “Android compatibility is important for us,” said Park. “We’ve worked with Samsung and expanded to 12 more devices. Motion Tracker is a new feature of our iPhone app that gives people an introductory experience to fitness tracking.”

Park, who said that the fitness tracker market has grown three-fold, reported that Fitbit has a 67 percent market share. He wasn’t concerned about competition from smartphones or smartwatches.

“The great thing about wearables is the user experience is very much a lean-forward experience,” he said. ”If you want true 24/7 coverage, it’s a wearable device. More sensitive sensors coming up don’t make sense in a smartphone.”

With regard to smartwatches, Park said Fitbit’s mission was clear from the outset as a fitness tracker. “Smartwatches don’t know what they’re about yet,” he said. “And in the meantime, consumers are left out in the cold.”

Fitbit has been noted for rapid interaction and Park explained why. “For us, it’s a realization that unlike smartphones where the industry has consolidated on a few form factors, wearables are going to be distinguished by the sheer variety of what is in the market regarding size, functionality, and price,” he said. “We reflect that realization that no one size fits all.”

The fashion aspect of wearables has led the Fitbit leadership to collaborate with a design firm in San Francisco. “Wearables are sensitive,” Park said. “For example, a lot of women don’t want to wear anything on their wrists. There is a lot of nuance in designing wearables.”

Although gamification can be an important aspect in motivating users, Park said that “surprisingly, very simple things work well.” Fitbit’s business model is hardware sales and subscriptions, however, because, as Park said, “apps corrupt the user experience.” Fitbits are now available in over 30,000 stores in 27 countries.

Park said he isn’t concerned about the possibility of Apple entering the space. “We think about what the consumer might need in the future,” he said. “We are in a position to impact roadmaps and that’s exciting for us. The next two years will be about how far we as a company can push the state of technology in wearables.”

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