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Google Buys Fitbit for $2.1B (cnbc.com)
946 points by chdaniel 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 742 comments

Changes of control typically trigger a suite of investor and creditor protections. I'm beginning to favor a similar set of rights for consumers.

Right to deletion would be one. Heightened portability requirements another.

is this not how it should work, at least in europe according to the new data laws.

recently nello.io was sold and this is the email i got.

we have good news, which we would like to share with you immediately! The journey of nello continues - we will join forces with the team of SCLAK. The new owner SCLAK will be the Italian supplier of smart home products. This fits perfectly to nello.

In order for you to be able to use your nello one in the future, there will be an update of the app shortly.

Since your data is particularly important to us, you will be asked to give your consent to the transfer of your customer data to SCLAK in the course of this update. The continued usability of your nello one can only be guaranteed with your consent. Without the data transfer, the functionality of your app will expire, which we would very much regret.

Perfect, except no refund offered!

The company would have had to carry a reserve to refund everyone who ever bought the app (which is equal to their total revenue). Or the buying company would have cover that. Either way it'd be an impossible liability.

Bricking hardware people paid for without offering a refund is potentially illegal, even US companies like Lowes realize this, hence why Lowes refunded all hardware purchases of Lowes by Iris Home Security Systems for customers they could track down.

It should be an impossible liability to intentionally brick devices that people paid you for.

It would be an impossible liability if everybody refunded. In realty I’d bet less than 5% would

An interesting idea but the reason investors + creditors can get these is because they have leverage and can negotiate for them. They are not always able to secure them. Consumers currently have no such leverage. The best avenue to this kind of leverage is probably legal?

The leverage of the consumer is the government whose legislators they elected.

Incorrect. That is an avenue of leverage. Currently driven more by corporate interests than citizen interests.

"democracy" literally means "rule by people" or "government by people". You are in effect claiming that America isn't a democracy (which may or may not be true, sometimes you look suspiciously like an aristocracy in disguise).

Anyway, over here in continental Europe democracy mostly works. And when people complained about privacy issues for years and Facebook laughed in our faces we eventually got the GDPR. That's exactly the kind of "either get your shit together or we will legislate it" this thread is about.

America is not a democracy — it is a constitutional republic with democratic elements. America has democratic election of representatives, the the lawmaking is done by those representatives, not directly. California’s proposition system is an example of true direct democracy.

The constitutional part is important too — it limits what people, and their representatives, can do even if they have a majority.

The house of representatives is directly elected, same with the senate. While the laws are not directly voted on by the people, they are indirectly voted on by the people by their choice of representative. After all if direct democracy was the only valid form of democracy it wouldn't need the qualifier "direct". The constitution is an important part of limiting abuse and channeling everything, it can be changed with a two-thirds majority. So the citizens can change the constitution by choosing representatives who want to do so, and we still have democracy.

Similarly when electing the president people vote for a person who will vote for the president. While it is a weird system, in essence the leader is chosen by the people.

Calling only direct democracy a democracy would be weird, by that standard a country pretty much can't be democratic for purely practical reasons (though Switzerland comes close)

On the other hand, everything is a de facto democracy because revolution is always on the table. There's nothing wrong with being precise. In fact, it leads to fewer misunderstandings.

The problem is that preciseness seems to be something that all US people know (is it taught in high school?) and nobody else. Systems where the government is voted for by the people are democratic regardless of the details.

> America is not a democracy — it is a constitutional republic with democratic elements.

People like to say this all the time like it's clever, but being a republic does not preclude being democratic. The United States is a democracy.

> being a republic does not preclude being democratic.

No, but the particular form of the US republic does so in practice.

> The United States is a democracy.

The United States may have been built around an idea of representative democracy, but in function it is more of a plutocratic republic with quasi-democratic rituals.

Oof, “democratic rituals” is an uncomfortably accurate description of voting in the U.S.

> quasi-democratic rituals

"We're doing stand-ups and we use story points, we're agile"

Electoral college, bruh. Not a true democracy.

The last time I heard this stupid argument, that was from a literal neo-nazi who has a svatiska tattoo on his chest.

You elect you president ; you elect your representatives to congress and senate at federal level ; you elect your representatives and governor at state level ; you elect your mayor and your city council at local level.

That's the definition of democracy.

I'm sorry to break this to you, but you're in the wrong country if you don't like constitutional republics, because the United States of America is in fact a constitutional republic.

I very much dislike neo-nazis, but I have to applaud the gentleman for at least understanding the simplest nature of his government and attempting to educate his countrymen.

I am pretty sure a constitutional republic can be fall under the label representative democracy (which in the case of the US).

Imagine that. Downvoting correct answer. Did I somehow end up on Reddit?

We’re in a new era— these things need to be legislated.

Most of those "protections" that are triggered are contractual.

As a B2B systems provider, we also have those for our customers.

If a B2C service provider does not provide these, then you can demand them or not sign up or both.

You already have right to delete in this instance.

In Europe, sure. What about those of us in the United States and other places with laxer privacy laws?

Fitbit allows you to download or delete your data regardless of where you live.

Here’s a quote from the NYT:

“You will always be in control of your data, and we will remain transparent about the data we collect and why,” Fitbit’s chief executive, James Park, said in an email to his company’s customers on Friday morning. “We never sell your personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”

What does that even mean? The company was bought by Google, the data has been sold.

A pedantic note, but what's happened here is that the companies involved have made a commitment to permit you to delete your data from the service. (Which they may or may not properly make good on, I'm not clear on whether they can be legally held to this commitment, e.g. in the US, once it's been made.)

A right to delete would mean something more like that the companies have no choice, e.g. that existing laws force them to delete your data from the service, whether they were willing to commit to offering that option or not.

Oof. Goodbye Fitbit. Or, rather, welcome to the world where you're a pawn in internal politics.

You may think you have a product but you don't. If your product survives (as in, Google didn't buy you just for the team), your product schedule will have to survive the interests of every other PA/team in Google.

- You think you have software to run your products? Ha. The Android team will have a different opinion.

- Even if you survive Android, Fuchsia probably thinks you belong on their paltform.

- Oh and while we're at it, let's integrate with OAuth2.0 so your device now needs a Google account to even work (and stops working when refresh tokens can't be used as happened to many Google wireless routers).

- Your software development is now set in stone as various teams work out how to migrate it to Google infrastructure and rewrite it in [language/framework du jour].

I actually agree with other commenters: Google just doesn't know what it's about anymore. It has no overriding vision. Larry just isn't the leader Google needs to be, which would be fine, except that he clearly wants to be.

Disclaimer: Xoogler.

> “I actually agree with other commenters: Google just doesn't know what it's about anymore. It has no overriding vision.”

it’s pretty apparent to me that after google finally got over wanting to be facebook, google now wants to be apple. and they’re desperately trying not to be microsoft, even though that’s what they mostly are.

in the beginning, google had a unique identity (quirky & clever) and vision (organize the world’s information). now they look to others to figure out who to be. it’s like the small town high school football star who never moved on.

> and they’re desperately trying not to be microsoft, even though that’s what they mostly are.

Mostly because Microsoft became more like Google in recent years. :P

You mean old Google?

They're doing some seriously good things in the dev space.

They are embracing a lot of technologies because that is how they gain market share and then extinguish them.

and spamming users with ads left and right, Google style, too

Hmm. In Chromium Edge, my new default browser, AFAIK the UO plugin will still work perfectly unlike in Chrome, meaning I rarely if ever see any ads.

The closest thing to an ad in VSCode or for that matter Terminal would be .. I guess hints at ease of Azure cloud services? Never found it intrusive myself, and I do AWS.

It's hard to understand your message, but... ads in VSCode? Is that a thing now?

I was kind of trying to say I haven't seen any ads, just non-intrusive integration with other MS services, in response to the ads reply I got. Sorry that was actually rather vague and roundabout.

You can use VSCodium, it's a fork of VSCode without Microsoft's telemetry.

> small town high school football star

That's odd thing to call the biggest software company* in the world.


* Alphabet

That wiki doesn't justify your statement. It's leveraging a list from 2017, but using Alphabet's market cap from 2019? And regardless, the actual market caps on that page would say Microsoft is the biggest software company in the world.

I have no idea what Forbes is using for its ranking but it is obviously not by valuation.

EDIT: And it should arguably be Apple, but for some reason neither Apple nor Amazon are software companies?

The Wikipedia article sorts by sales. Not sure why the years are like that, but the relative values are similar in 2019. [1] [2]

> for some reason neither Apple nor Amazon are software companies?

Because they aren't software companies? Or at least principally software companies.

Amazon is categorized as an retail company. [3]

Apple is categorized as a computer hardware company. [4]

Nitpicking aside, I think my point stands about a $800B+ company.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/companies/alphabet/?list=global2000#5...

[2] https://www.forbes.com/companies/microsoft/?list=global2000#...

[3] https://www.forbes.com/companies/amazon/?list=global2000#2c4...

[3] https://www.forbes.com/companies/apple/?list=global2000#3d04...

And market cap while it measures investor sentiment, doesn’t measure fundamentals. If it did, Uber wouldn’t be worth anything.

1. Just so we are clear, after having gone through 5 "lifetimes" of fitbit and probably 15 across the family, one thing I can tell you is that the software is buggy with no end in sight. Fitbit could definitely use better software.

2. If Google didn't integrate their Auth, the same community will be complaining about the lack of compatibility.

There's a difference betewen integrating one auth and disintegrating all others. Should my fitbit be bricked if I make a wrongthink comment on YouTube?

I don't think fitbit will be improved considering how jank WearOS can be

> as in, Google didn't buy you just for the team

2.1B isn't an acquihire. They want the customers, the team, and the manufacturing chain at the very least.

Nah, what they want is me, ie. my data. I'm throwing away that fitbit (Google Personal information gathering device) and deleting my account. I'm informed enough to make that decision. Unfortunately thousands of users that just got sold out are not.

Fuck Google.

I moved to iOS to be Google free. Have been happy with my Fitbit until I read this news and went through this exact sentiment. Happy to be part of a vocal minority.

I advised my privacy-worried dad to get a Fitbit instead of an android watch (couldn’t afford Apple Watch). Now I feel like an *hole

We live in fast times.

In a little less than a decade the perception of Google went from 'Best search on the internet' and 'Do no evil' to 'Fuck Google' and 'Delete your accounts with them'; and 'their search has gotten exponentially worse'

No skin in the game from me (I only use Gmail for non-essential shopping), just an observation. Personally, I think it's great. I'm proud to stand with the vocal minority against the rampant data collection and trade.

Same as Microsoft, really: first they were one of the plucky little companies* “sticking it” to the likes of Big Blue and AT&T, then they themselves fell victim to their own success and became embodied in Gates Of Borg on Slashdot, then they missed the boat on Mobile and failed to Embrace, Extend, Extinguish the Internet and ended up on the downward stroke, so now they’re cool again... while the Googles and Apples that opposed them and grew ascendant in their various ways are now the Great Evils that draw our ire.

My guess for the next great Satan? One of the notable, useful, quirky little “meta”/“web-glue” outfits such as IFTTT or somebody like that. Or a Fintech. Or some other company that somehow insinuates itself into our daily lives, holding our rickety digital lifestyles together, and eventually becomes as indispensable as mortar is to a brick building.

*Other notable examples being, in no specific order: Intel, DEC, Symbolics, Commodore, and yes, Apple.

> My guess for the next great Satan?

It's Cloudflare.

edit: Just to be clear, the reason I'm so suspicious of Cloudflare is that they're inserting themselves between users and their destination. The service they provide is a great value, and their contribution to the public (free dns and vpn) is extremely admirable. But they only exist because the infrastructure maintained by the old corporate guards is so poor. Once they take over all network traffic, they'll be the next great Satan. Their story will probably turn out similar to Google.

> No skin in the game from me (I only use Gmail for non-essential shopping), just an observation.

This is really commendable. Do you host your own E-mail/Calendar/Contacts server? if so, what's your setup like in terms of hardware and the software stack?

If you want it easy, you can buy something like a Synology NAS where you can install locally hosted Email, Contacts, Calendar, Dropbox and Photos servers with a few clicks. The software is of decent quality as well.

Obviously you pay for the convenience, but it's not a lot for self-hosted and maintained stack at home.

Contacts are, unfortunately, still under Google. Just under a separate email.

Important email is hosted through https://soverin.net with a custom domain.

Never used Calendar and have no plans to.

Don't throw it away, send it to me. I'll pay for shipping.

I just deleted my Fitbit account and will for sure be confirming whether it's deleted in 7 days.

How will you confirm this?

You missed "Data"

I mean, it's implied in "customers" but yeah, they want the data obviously

Sundar has been leading Google for a few years now. Larry/Sergey have been out and about for a while now.

I am a Xoogler myself.

Yes and no. Sundar has no more vision than Larry does yet somehow is paid $200m+ a year and in my mind is the most unjustifiably overpaid CEO by a huge margin. At least Larry founded the company and contributed to turning into the behemoth it is. Sunday is a random associate product manager who somehow managed to ride the wave of Chrome to somehow becoming CEO.

> Sunday (sic) is a random associate product manager who somehow managed to ride the wave of Chrome to somehow becoming CEO

I'd be more careful about dismissing him as a random APM who "somehow managed to ride the wave of Chrome". Successes like these aren't wholly random and while there is certainly an amount of luck involved, you need to remember that Chrome is/was a crazy essential thing for Google's success before the smartphone/Android revolution.

It is more about not giving up the entry point to search (browser on PC -- mobiles weren't dominant in 2008) to a competitor (MS) who could stifle or charge a steep price to let it be the default search. If you need any more data on this, read up on how much Google pays Apple to be the default search engine ($5B a year IIRC).

So... Sundar's CEO status may or may not have been the best choice but don't discount years of work and navigating inside a behemoth like Google and getting st done :)

> Sundar has no more vision than Larry does yet somehow is paid $200m+ a year and in my mind is the most unjustifiably overpaid CEO by a huge margin.

Do you have a source for this? My understanding is that this $200m figure is a multi-year figure to keep him at Google.

I wouldn’t characterize him as random though. Larry seemed to like him because he is able to handle conflict very well.

It is hard to accurately judge how the CEO is doing as most us are not privy to what he has to deal with in his job. That said, to me he seems uninspiring, dodging questions and without much background in Computers. In some ways arguably similar to Steve Ballmer.

> The stock that Pichai received will vest in quarterly increments through January 2020

Seems like multi-year (2016-2020), not annually.

Just like Presidents, you cannot judge a CEO's job till the aftermath. That and after only deep introspection. Few cases bar exception, i.e. Steve Balmer.

Nadella seems much more capable as a visionary than Pichai

> Sunday is a random associate product manager who somehow managed to ride the wave of Chrome to somehow becoming CEO.

Chrome has monopolized not just the Internet[1], but is in the process of monopolising desktop dev thanks to the success of Electron. Of course those are good credentials to end up in charge of Google.

[1] As far as most people are concerned, their browser is the Internet.

I have no idea why you are downvoted.

Anything less than violent enthusiasm about Google leveraging their Chrome monopoly tends to go down badly here.

Under your theory, Steve Jobs still runs Apple.

Depending on how much product roadmap he set before he shuffled off the mortal coil, he may well be.

Now you are comparing Apples to Lemons.

I'm on the outside but always had the impression Eric Schmidt was calling most of the "do evil" important things.

I don't really have any special evidence to the contrary, but I suspect Schmidt gets a bad rap simply because of his appearance and demeanor of looking a bit stodgy like a bureaucrat from the federal Gov or something. He also has a very serious face. I think he was basically a competent CEO who steered the company away from risky businesses.

Every Andrew Carnegie needs his Henry Frick [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead_strike#Plans_of_Carn...

They don’t care about the product in so much as they care about the avenue to suck up more data, no?

Actually, no. I find this whole "they're selling your data" trope to be trite and just annoying at this point.

I actually expect this more a reaction to Apple's pivot into health with the Apple Watch (people seem to forget the ex-Burberry CEO positioned the Apple Watch 1 as a luxury product--anyone remember the Apple Watch Edition for $10k?--health came later).

Google’s core business is ad targeting, the cornerstone of which is personal data used to target better. While it is (hopefully) untrue that they literally sell your data, they do profit from it indirectly (and massively, it’s 85% of revenue). Google has many great products and some bad ones, but almost all have vacuum hoses up against your personal data... Now, Fitbit makes a really mediocre and pedestrian tech product that captures a wealth of deeply personal data. I’ll go ahead and connect the dots on this one.

> I find this whole "they're selling your data" trope to be trite and just annoying at this point.

Do you believe it to be mistaken? Or true, but not worth caring about?

> Do you believe it to be mistaken? Yes, Google doesn't sell personal data.

Its core business is selling products whose entire value would be negated if it sold the data behind them, so it really wouldn't sell the data.

On top of that, I think it's a mistake to say that they are buying Fitbit for data anyway. They are buying Fitbit for a toehold in the wearables market; while this probably has some data value, it's pretty clearly part of their effort to build up direct sales of consumer products as a revenue stream.

It's hard to believe that the data in my exercise tracker has real, fundamental worth when I see so much targeted advertising that fails to leverage the data they already have. I suppose it doesn't matter to Google if someone buys a location-specific ad for a place I used to live in despite them knowing where my phone, purchases, and electoral record say I live but then why would them knowing my heart rate help them if they already know I bought a bicycle, search about bicycle parts, frequently use bicycle maps, and travel at about 15 mph?

> when I see so much targeted advertising that fails to leverage the data they already have.

Targeted advertising is far from the only thing Google wants data for.

Well advertising is over 80% of their Q32019 revenue, what else do they want it for?


From Google's privacy policy:

We don’t share information that personally identifies you with advertisers, such as your name or email, unless you ask us to

The problem isn't just their sharing the data (although you'd be naive to assume that the data they collect isn't being turned over to at least the US government) it's the collecting and storing of that data itself that is problematic. The fact that they're using that data to manipulate us via advertising isn't much better.

The presence and centralization of the data makes it a very juicy target for all kinds of evil people.

But, like most companies, Google defines PII to exclude items (such as the Android advertising ID, for instance) that are PII.

We all know it's possible to identify you even without name or email, given enough data.

If it was easy, advertisers would be doing it already. Google is highly motivated to keep your data fire-walled from advertisers.

Except that statement is just wrong and misleading. Your personal identifying information is all the metadata that can be aggregated and intersected to directly identify you, your name just is a number in the database but it's directly identifying and tracking _you_. Google doesn't care about selling your name or email, that's not valuable to them or advertisers.

And "unless you ask us to" is the default behavior of almost all google products. You have to ask them not to, sometimes under penalty of law (GDPR), before they actually change their behavior.

"unless you ask us to" - it's defined in the privacy policy and clearly says it's due to the user taking an explicit action.

While I sort of agree, I think the problem is that "they're selling your data" misstates what actually happens.

Facebook and Google want to collect your data and keep it. What they're selling is indirect access to you: the more information they have on you, the more precisely they can theoretically target advertising and content to you. Keeping the data they have on you to themselves is literally their business model.

Two points, though. First, of course, that's still essentially what's been dubbed "surveillance capitalism"; it's still something someone may be uncomfortable with for a variety of reasons. Your data is being indirectly monetized, but it's still being monetized, and you still have very limited insight into the extent of that data and how it's being used. Second, adtech isn't the business model of everyone who collects data -- and one could argue that the more businesses a data-collecting company is in, the more moral hazards pop up. How much data will Google give over to law enforcement when there's a warrant, for example? What if we see a Facebook Health initiative that allows medical providers and insurers selective access to what Facebook "knows" about you within the limits of regulations and the law? (Do you know what those limits are? I don't.)

I actually expect this more a reaction to Apple's pivot into health with the Apple Watch...

Expect what, privacy concerns? While I understand that, I'm not sure much health information collected by Apple devices ever leaves your "local ecosystem" (i.e., your personal set of devices). Also, the Apple Watch Edition notwithstanding, I'm not sure I'd say its original incarnation was positioned as a luxury product -- yes, you could pay $10,000+ for it if you wanted to, but it still started at $349. But it was certainly positioned as a fashion product at its introduction, which they've dialed way back on since.

Google also wants to meddle with the elections (Numerous quotes here, but the most relevant is certainly Youtube’s CEO). Anyway, you are right for the collect-and-keep-my-data part, but I think in their idea they want to use this data to build some sort of utopia. That is the most benevolent appreciation on it, because it is one that explains all of “Do no evil”, election “influence”, use of AI and exhaustive data collection.

A utopia was originally the exploration of what life would be like if a philosophy was taken to the extreme. In that sense, one man's utopia is another man's personal hell.

For example in the utopic vision of anarchy, there are no authorities and everyone must find their own path in the world. The flip side of having no decisions made for you is that you must make all of your own decisions. Or in democracy, since anyone and everyone has the exact same power over decisions, all the really important decisions are made in the most mediocre way possible. In Capitalism, we have the specter of individuals being ground into raw resources and then spit out when they reach their useful lifespan.

So if their intent is to build a utopia of their own making, that's definitionally evil because it admits no dissenting opinion in the matter of how we live our lives.

Right, but they’re not going to make money off the hardware, it’s going to be the services and ad targeting based off of the data. You think chromecast is to make a profit?

This is a continuation of the trite bit. What's missing is recognizing that Alphabet (not Google) is very focused on diversifying its revenue stream beyond search advertising, ideally in a way that takes advantage of the things it's already good at.

GCP is a good example. No search. No ads. No using of customer data. Just a desire for a really big potential revenue stream that builds on Google's expertise in managing huge numbers of servers and services.

Very focused, but not very good at it thus far. Their revenue is still 80-90% advertising revenue.

No disagreement.

GCP is the exception in that it’s the only Google business that does not rely on data aggregation and profiling.

That's not true. I think @ceejayoz below pointed out the situation well: they've made many attempts (waymo, for another still-unprofitable example). Just not many of them have turned into significant revenue -- particularly compared to the sustained ~24% YoY growth that Google managed for so long. That's a hard business to beat.

Waymo is an Alphabet company, not a Google business. What Google business other than Google Cloud do you consider not to not rely on data aggregation and profiling?

Google accelerated science, fiber before it was spun out into alphabet, the medical diagnostics part of Google Brain, the quantum computing group, Chromebooks, ATAP (the group that partnered with Levi's to make a jacket), ...

There are a lot. And there have been more that were cancelled. As I said: Google-the-search-and-advertising-company is one of the most successful companies of our time. It's astonishingly hard to replicate that success, which is probably why we don't see Google other units with equivalent revenue. But it's really not for lack of trying.

The data isn't very valuable, and it's even less valuable without users. They care about the product but are just incompetent at making hardware that people will buy, even if they eventually make the the product have useful features like identity assertion.

I don’t know about that. People’s daily fitness activity, weight, entire diet and sleep patterns aren’t valuable?

Ummm. Fitbit was already on the downward spiral. So, they'll take this lifeline from Google. Thank you very much

> [language/framework du jour].

Is this an accurate description of Google? I thought they used the same 4-5 languages they've used since the beginning of time, maybe minus perl and plus kotlin.

Fitbit already runs on Google cloud [1], IMO this has been in the making for some time already.

[1] https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/inside-google-cloud/new...

Just like any massive global tech company.

> as in, Google didn't buy you just for the team

Or for the data ... even better profiles of people, including people who tried avoiding giving Google that data. Probably time for such users to send GDPR notices (If EU citizens)

Wow what a bunch of FUD.

Maybe so, but please post substantively here. I know that takes time and effort, but it's always an option to just not post anything.

The site guidelines particularly ask: "Please don't post shallow dismissals [...] A good critical comment teaches us something."


forgive my ignorance, but what's a xoogler

From the context, I’d guess it’s an “Ex Googler”, in other words a former google employee.

Ex googler

"Google just doesn't know what it's about anymore."

Isn't it an organization optimized for enabling engineers to increase leverage?

That's why things get rewritten into [language/framework du jour].

I think they do. They're the same thing they've always been: an advertising company. They can only become something else when the majority of their income is derived from something else. Which it currently isn't.

>You may think you have a product but you don't.

I absolutely agree with everything.

Here is the thing, total side topic - but Fitbit's product is really excellent!

The packaging of the PCBs, the operating system, the tech, it's all really impressive.

I know that means nothing in the larger scope, Google bought them for their data and mining potential.

But the product is actually really cool. It appears to be simple, but when you deep drive, you can run your own javascript code on your own device, and serialize the data with packages like CBOR for export... This was done a micro that's running an RTOS made in C on an extremely constrained resources device.

I've always been impressed with Fitbit.

Can you run it with Bluetooth off logging locally and then sync periodically? I doubt it but haven't dove into it

The logging works ok while off bluetooth...but be aware that _any_ changes are basically impossible in that state. Even basic watch functionality like changing the time or setting an alarm require a bluetooth link, the software, and an internet connection back to the fitbit servers.

Well, that's a conpletely pointless limitation. Nothing of good was lost...

I've done that occasionally, over a weekend when I left my phone at home or something. Doesn't happen often, obviously, but it does have some small number of days of local logging.

Garmin and Apple have the fitness market covered. Fitbit never had the hardcore fitness market Garmin executed into and Apple has always had a product that works well across the wearable and fitness. Between these two companies I can't imagine there's much of a niche Fitbit does better. On the extreme hardcore triathlon user even Garmin has taken a lot of market from Suunto and the like. I've owned a handful of Garmin devices over the years and have never considered Fitbit. Now that Google owns them my initial reaction is that Fitbit is going to be in a very confusing state for the next year and their products will fall further behind. Unless Google actually scraps what WearOS is today and goes back to the drawing board they've lost this war even to Garmin.

I'm confused by this comment.

To me, Garmin is the only company here that does a good job with the "hardcore fitness" market, but why does that matter in the first place? The better market to compete in is the "fitness amateur" market, which I see as being many times the former in size. Fitbit competes well here, and Google has no offering to speak of. Seems like a successful diversification move for Alphabet's portfolio. I especially like what Google's software can do to improve FitBit's offering by leveraging AI.

I think the point you're missing is everyone levels up. Even amateur fitness users want a better fitness wearable. Which is why Garmin and Apple have the lion's share of the market. Fitbit is still seen as a step tracker level device, even if they do more. Garmin wearables are laser focused to the workout market and most buyers seem to lust over the idea of needing a more capable fitness device. Garmin and Apple both cover "fitness amateur" in spades but do an upsell far better.

With regard to AI, I'm not trying to be flippant but, those users don't care. No amateur fitness users would even understand how that would apply and likely be less to care than selling predictive analysis to those working out who legitimately track vitals and are trying to shave seconds.

Apple Watch battery lasts a day at most. My Fitbit can go without a charge for 6 days. Fitbit offers sleep tracking.. Apple Watch doesn’t natively, and even if it did, you still have to charge it at night. Fitbits are more minimalistic. They’re so nice. I don’t want a Garmin wearable. A lot of people who use Fitbits don’t use them for the fitness aspect. We use them to avoid the sedentary lifestyle by viewing our steps, and occasionally going on a run. I hope Google doesn’t ruin Fitbit. But judging by their past moves, my Charge 3 will be useless in a matter of 2-3 years

I much prefer my Apple Watch over my shitty fitbit to be honest. Charging isn’t an issue. I only charge it in the morning when I’m getting ready and that’s enough to last me the whole day and through the night.

All that as well as the great GPS capability. I have the Fitbit Ionic and start the Walk exercise when bushwalking ( hiking). It produces very accurate track logs that I can use for mapping when I return. It does consume more battery but far less than high rate logging on the phone

This, I want the basics, not another phone on my wrist. The charge 3 lasts me 10 days and charges in about 15 minutes. I don't want another device to charge daily.

>Apple Watch doesn’t natively, and even if it did, you still have to charge it at night

The way around that is to charge it earlier in the evening before bed - I do that and it lasts me easily until the following evening.

But it's a shame the device doesn't cover sleep natively.

It does sleep analysis natively. You just need to enable a bed time and it’ll track it.


You may like AutoSleep. It gets darn close to feeling native.

> Which is why Garmin and Apple have the lion's share of the market

Source? A simple search for "fitbit garmin market share" [0] seem to suggest that Garmin is ways behind Fitbit in adoption.

[0] https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/09/08/fitbit-loses-more-...

This and the casual smartwatch market where FitBit's versa already sells great (even though it's not great at all). Google's offerings here are sparse, littered with confusing options and half-assed design. A cohesive pixel/Fitbit product can help create a proper Anti-Apple Watch product.

> "fitness amateur" market ... Fitbit competes well here

I'm not so sure about that.

For simple activity monitoring by way of step counting, movement time, sleep time, and similar simple metrics, there is a lot of competition. This isn't just from the extremely cheap (but probably not very good) options, there are several devices out there at about half the price of FitBit's cheapest that seem to do the job just as well (caveat: I'm basing this mainly on anecdotal evidence from friends/family and online).

For very little more than their cheapest watch & step-counter you can get a TomTom sports watch which has built-in GPS for accurate run/cycle/other tracking, breadcrumb mapping, and so on. The price difference for adding a wrist-based heard-rate monitor is about the same in both ranges.

Moving away from the casual fitness market towards people like me[†], their only GPS capable device[‡] costs more than Garmin's 235 which is a more capable device, more than twice the price of the aforementioned TomTom units, in fact you can usually get a Fenix 3 for the same price as the Ioinc, and there are a couple of other well regarded competitors with similar feature sets at that sort of price level too.

Their key advantage is name recognition, at the casual end of the market at least, though that doesn't necessarily help. People often call cheap-n-dirty activity trackers "cheap fitbits" rather than an activity tracker, watch, or other name including the products official name, but they still buy them instead of the actual fitbit. They did in the past seem to have that part of the market cornered, but seem to have let it slip considerably in recent years.

(NOTE: I'm in the UK. Relative pricing of manufacturers/models may differ in different markets.)

[†] I'm a recreational runner, far from the top of any particular class though in recent years I've knocked of a couple road marathons and multi-day trail challenges so I consider myself to be good at putting one foot in front of the other without tripping over either!

[‡] I generally discount phone-based GPS tracking by wrist-mounted devices due to the battery drain on the phone, and I never found it terribly reliable though that may have improved since

My Garmin 935 is waterproof, has an always on display, shows smartphone notifications, charges once a week, and has worked for over a year. If apple or Fitbit had this, I’d go back. Had multiple fit bits and they all broke in 6 months. Had an Apple Watch, but it needed to be charged every day, wasn’t waterproof, and display turned off. Apple has improved on 2 of those but it still needs every day charging.

I would put garmin last software, but the other hardware features more than make up for it.

Ex Garmin employee: The amount of 1st party software in those watches is astounding. And it almost all gets processed on-watch.

The 3rd party app support is laughably poor, but the APIs are there. ConnectIQ apps are written in their own language (MonkeyC, which is kinda hard to use), which hinders adoption, and are generally slow and feature-poor.

But the good thing for Garmin is that the 1st party software more than makes up for the lack of 3rd party support. The music-enabled watches (eg FR645) have Spotify support, GPS, and Bluetooth music, last for an eon, and are hardy as all hell.

Seriously, I know that these always-on displays don't look as nice as an LCD, but I value battery life more. If there were WearOS device that had this type of display to make them last longer than a day or two I'd consider it, mostly for Google Pay and the ability to use Spotify without my phone.

Plus it really sucks to wait for the lag on wrist-raise (or the false alarms) to be able to tell the time. With the Garmin, glance at it to get the time; no wrist movement foppery. Edit: BTW, some of the WearOS watches now have effectively 2 displays: a always-on lcd with great battery life for the basics and the fancy backlit lcd underneath for everything else: one example is Mobvoi, which has funding from Google and thus hopefully isn't fly-by-night. Edit2: https://wearos.google.com/#find-your-watch .

I have seen a lot more Fitbits then Garmins or Apple Watches. I would argue that the hardcore market, while the most loyal, isn't the largest revenue generator. It's everyone who wants something "smart" without breaking the bank (or tied to iOS).

Fitbits are a quarter of the price; same reason you see way more Androids than iPhones.

I wouldn’t have bought an Apple Watch even if I wanted to spend the extra money. Battery life, minimal build, and sleep tracking are the selling points for many people.

Google needs a proper smartphone-like smartwatch and they needed a cheap buy to speed up the dev process. They don't need the Garmin market because they want a smartwatch on every person and not on every athletic person. I was always hoping smart glasses come after smart phones but I guess these are even smaller and need even more time than watches to become efficient enough to cover for the small battery.

If this is really the driver behind Google buying them, what do you think are the odds that most - if not all - of the non-watch FitBit products are eventually discontinued?

That's how they built up a following, with devices that were inexpensive, and did a few things well, but given the current environment, Google doesn't seem like they are interested in that market.

I think there's an enormous market for <=~$100 wearables that are primarily positioned as health trackers. Among other things, many wellness programs partner with Fitbit as a device provider. The first mover advantage for Fitbit also carries over into their existing, very expansive, partner ecosystem. This "health tracker" market is far larger market than the one for fully functional smart watches with 1-2 day batteries.

I'm currently using a Mi Band 3 with Gadgetbridge on Android just because I know it doesn't phone home, last several days and gather enough data for what I'm doing. Oh and seeing notifications without pulling my phone out of my pocket is a big reason why I wear one.

I'd be willing to try a fitbit if they had a daylight-readable smart watch. I haven't gotten around to getting a Garmin, but last I checked they were the only watch since pebble with a daylight-readable screen--and they support heart-rate. Google has a chance to do better with App integration.

Fibit should fit perfectly into the 99$ market for a zillion people that just want to track steps and sleep cycles.

$99? A brand new Garmin Vivofit 4 which has an always on display and a year of battery life is $79.99 USD. It's the low margin segment of the space and that's where Fitbit put all their eggs. Fitbit didn't really invest in anything behind low-end fitness tracking well. They tried, but people buy other products now. They want heart rate, they want GPS, they want PulseOx and ECG features and will pay for them. Regardless of whether or not they need them.

Doesn’t support heart rate tracking or phone notifications. Nice try though.

I didn't say Vivofit 4 had those things. I said people want them.

They’re starting to put some of their data behind a monthly subscription, especially around sleep.

A coworker recommended I look into buying one, but as soon as I saw that I needed to pay $x per month to see data they were already capturing, I immediately passed.

I came across this with my fitbit this week. I immediately had such a clear realization I was done with this company.

You have 10$ chinese brand-able devices for that: https://rbaron.net/blog/2018/05/27/Hacking-a-cheap-fitness-t...

Or just get a $1 pedometer and a sleep app.

Your phone can already track steps and sleep. You don't need an extra device.

And why wouldn’t they just buy a $199 Apple Watch Series 3? How many people are both into fitness and do price conscience that they won’t spend an extra $100.

Well, they could cater to the Android market.

If you have an Android, or even want the option of an Android in the future.

I wish Apple would want some of their stuff cross-platform - I don't like the all or nothing nature of the Apple ecosystem (I consider 'exclusives' to be anti-consumer in general).

Well, there is iTunes for Windows, Apple Music for Android and the Apple TV app for various TVs and streaming sticks.

Withings has some neat watches (and lots of other health-related products).


I'm currently using Fitbit, but has considered switching. This will probably catalyze it.

I use Strava (which I’d like to ditch) on an iPhone (I do not a GPS watch or fitness tracker).

Are there open source, privacy conscious apps that can be used instead of Starva, RunKeeper et al to log my fitness activities?

Honestly, I think an Apple Watch (maybe the very affordable Series 3?) would be your best and most comfortable option. You can have your activites tracked by Apple's own first-party Activity app, which is likely the most privacy-conscious option.

I use an Apple Watch for cycling and several other activites. It isn't a necessity at all and one could debate the purchase for ages, but once you start using it you probably wouldn't want to miss all those small and frequent conveniences it provides in addition to the rock solid activity tracking.

I recently purchased the Samsung Galaxy Active 2 and am loving it so far. Fitness tracking seems to be accurate too.

Would be interesting to see the market share of Apple, Samsung and Garmin for smart watches.

Forbes says Apple 35%, Samsung 11%, Imoo 9%, Fitbit 5.5%, Amazfit 3.7%, Huawei 2.8%, Fossil 2.5%, Garmin 1.5%, "Others" 27%.

Which one gives you the most achievements? I'm a simple man who just wants achievements. Fitbit has some weak ass achievements.

I disagree. The wearables market is still wide open IMO and there is still plenty of room to make a truly compelling product.

I for one welcome this change. I want a standalone smartwatch good enough so that I can stop using my phone. The state of smartwatches right now is quite sad (I cannot afford an Apple smartwatch so I cannot speak for those). The simple list of things I want from a smartwatch right now are barely fulfilled by the best I could find which is Huawei Watch 2. I want Google Pay, calls and LTE, proper Maps navigation, sending voice messages through some Facebook owned chat app which everyone uses, some very very simple browser experience, bluetooth connection for headphones, Youtube and Spotify.

The Huawei Watch 2 I have constantly crashes, the battery life is horrible, charger doesn't connect well, Google Maps doesn't offer directions (only location), WhatsApp and Discord aren't supported, Google Pay works but I have to use PayEnabler because they don't care, Spotify isn't there and Youtube is very very laggy.

I guess the biggest issue is actually Qualcomm because the current chip is 3100 which is 28nm (is that like 5-6 year old tech?). I sincerely hope that with this acquisition and Qualcomm rumored Snapdragon wear 439 (they are rebranding it as 3500 or something) I will finally in the May of 2020 get an actually good (no need to be great) standalone Google Pixel Watch.

The Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular is $329. How much cheaper can you get a smart watch with cellular, gps, health sensors, etc?

Yeah but you really need to buy the IPhone to go with it.

Point taken.

You can see the same thing happening with the Apple Watch needing an iPhone as what happened with the iPhone needing a computer early on.

It wasn’t until iOS 5 that you didn’t need a computer running iTunes to activate and update an iOS device.

Apple has slowly been detaching the Apple Watch from the iPhone. First with a cellular connection and then with an independent Watch store and adding better APIs for third party apps.

Right now, you can get away with only having the Watch with you in day to day use and the phone company already assigns a dedicated number to the watch (even though you can’t use it), I can see in the next couple of years not needing a phone at all to use the watch.

A cheap beat up iPhone SE fulfills this requirement for $75.

If you're leaving it at home anyways it doesn't need to be pretty or fast. Just needs to allow you to set up the Apple Watch.

The Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro are each better because the other exists. I think Apple users should be especially happy when Google enters the game.

Friend of mine decided to go phoneless -- borrowed an iPhone 6S from his QC department and used it to activate an Apple Watch, which is now his sole mobile device.

The Apple Watch cellular requires an active phone subscription to pair with it.

The Series 3 without cellular is $199 and you can find a cellular model on sale under $250 all the time too.

Yeah well I'm from Eastern Europe where it's more expensive, never on sale and I have less money

Out of curiosity, what is the cost of an iPhone 8 (the cheapest current iPhone) + Apple cellular watch where you live?

In a shop or used? 1788kn watch + 2452kn iphone 6s = 635$ usd. Average net salary is about 750$ usd.

I think this is the cheapest new: https://edigital.hr/apple-i-dodaci/iphone-c18325?filter%5Bse...

And watch


Is there a way to send voice messages without using the phone? Does any of the bigger chat apps offer the "record voice" button?

I haven’t tried any of the other chat apps. But you can send a voice message with the built in messages apps from the watch. It should work with both iMessage and SMS.

Are you thinking of the dictation option, which makes text from voice?

I don't see a way to send a voice message in my watch interface.

And it's looking like this year's Black Friday deal is that model for $199 (cellular for the price of the regular).

Does it have a 6 day battery? My Fitbit does.

Does your Fitbit have a cellular connection? He explicitly said he wants something that allows him to leave his phone at home.

That's a completely different product than Fitbit is. Even its full blown smartwatches are very light, very dumb peripherals with very low power that last a week on a charge. They're really not the same type of product as a Wear OS or Apple Watch type device, and trying to turn them into one will take away all of why Fitbit owners choose them.

Well there's also market segmentation you know. Xiaomi is entering the Wear OS smartphone market, no reason why FitBit couldn't also. This move from Google is obviously a way for them to speed up their own watch tech so that they don't have to start from scratch. This doesn't mean there wont be these simpler dumber versions of smartwatches for the people who want exactly those

I do think an Apple Watch meets all of your requirements pretty easily. You’d have to spend more on an LTE model, though.

I don’t think Fitbit has ever tried to compete in this space.

I can see them linking this data to medical data and getting sued again. Like last June https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/26/technology/google-univers...

I've been interested in tracking sleep/exercise/heart rate more closely, but have yet to find a manufacturer that takes privacy seriously. Whatever device I have should transfer data only to computers that are under my control. No matter how pure the intentions of the current maintainers of centralized databases, acquisitions can lead to those databases being in unscrupulous hands.

I'm the same. I use a Contec CMS50I purchased new on ebay as a sleep data logger. I use SleepyHead software, however I think even the windows software that comes with it doesn't require a network connection. It is a pulse oximeter that tracks SpO2, pulse rate, and perfusion index. I think they are primarily sold as a low cost option for hospitals. The data format was reverse engineered not provided by the company and while I haven't compared directly I think there might be some debouncing that should be applied in some cases involving movement of the sensor (possibly their software doesn't do anything about that either). I've used it overnight maybe 30ish times and I'm not sure it will last all that long, although the blue line the display acquired at one point went away after a while. I did find that it is a good idea to wipe with rubbing alcohol each time you use it as the manual suggests. I wish there were more options.

> have yet to find a manufacturer that takes privacy seriously

What's wrong with Apple then?

Whatever device I have should transfer data only to computers that are under my control.

It might be possible to keep the data local, but it is likely to be neither easy, nor easy to NOT end up accidentally linking it to iCloud. Where I personally don't have a problem with those data living on Apple's servers, parent obviously does.

I'm under the impression that health data is not uploaded to iCloud or backed up by iCloud backup. What makes you think otherwise?

From https://www.apple.com/ios/health/

> Your health data stays up to date across all your devices automatically using iCloud, where it is encrypted while in transit and at rest. Apps that access HealthKit are required to have a privacy policy, so be sure to review these policies before providing apps with access to your health and fitness data.

That it is uploaded and capable of being shared with apps implies that Apple both has access to it and is capable of decrypting it. I also have a wider definition of "health data", and would include sleep patterns, heart rate, and exercise rate under it.

They can't decrypt the health data. They can decrypt most icloud categories, but a few are only exempt.

You can also shut off icloud backup for health.


-------- [forgive me, for the life of me I don't easily know how to format lists on HN or even put things on newlines without double spacing]

"These features and their data are transmitted and stored in iCloud using end-to-end encryption:

Home data Health data (requires iOS 12 or later) iCloud Keychain (includes all of your saved accounts and passwords) Payment information Quicktype Keyboard learned vocabulary (requires iOS 11 or later) Screen Time Siri information Wi-Fi passwords"



Imessages are also end to end encrypted. However, if you use icloud backup, they can be decrypted as the keys are backed up.

I think all the decryption happens on the phone, so Apple can't actually see your iCloud data.

I would be very surprised if that were true. Apple needs to be able to help users reset passwords and recover data. And it would be a complicated key management situation when adding or removing devices.

It is indeed true (and complicated). There have been well-publicized cases of users who have been permanently locked out of their account, because they lost all their trusted devices and also their recovery key.

Well, I am very surprised, thanks for the info :)

That is for iOS and not the watchOS. All health data is stored on the device and Apple does not have access to it.

It doesn't even have the means to decrypt it.

You need an iPhone. The square design might not appeal to everyone

That wasn't the point of the original comment at all, this is your personal projection.

sued just means they overplayed their hand and got a slap on the write. in a sinister way it validates their business model

"Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data."

> Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads

"For now. We'll wait a few years until everyone's forgotten, then launch an amazing new service that just happens to combine health and ads data. What? Hey, it worked for Facebook and WhatsApp."

Isn't selling your company with the data the same as selling your data?

This is the same situation as when Facebook bought that cool app Moves, and suddenly Facebook had retroactive access to all of my location history and IP+timestamps.

It's true Google doesn't sell your data: they just rent it out a bit.

Saying they rent it is almost as misleading as all the people that say they sell it. It implies that the renter gets the data and they don't and that distinction is key.

But I too am not sure what the right way to describe it is. I guess you could say they use your data in the product that they sell.

It's there in all its glory for the state. Massive surveillance to create a permanent record of everything about everyone.

The problem with this kind of statement is that the data will be there forever and all it takes is a "welp he changed our minds" to undo everything.

Well that's pure baloney. They're clear that they may collect data such as <non-exhaustive examples> and that it may be used in a variety of ways which could include <list of vague, anodyne fluff>.

hugi 20 days ago [flagged]

Yeah, sure.

Just scroll down and click accept in the meantime.

It's absurd they actually make you scroll like that some how indicates full acceptance of their programme.

John Gruber^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H

Dan Lyons^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H

Steve Ballmer had another colourful analogy, he used it in response to companies claiming that a merger would create a powerhouse to challenge the market leader:

"It’s like taking the two guys who finished second and third in a 100-yard dash and tying their legs together and asking for a rematch, believing that now they’ll run faster."

(Thanks to "raldi" for finding the quote on Daring Fireball, and identifying that Gruber was quoting Lyons, who said he heard it from Ballmer, although the words here are Lyons')

I had to google for what "^H" meant.

Found an interesting answer and backstory: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/386870.html

I used to joke that I was going to have "stty erase ^H" etched on my gravestone. It's probably been 25+ years since I've last needed to type that, but I can still hammer it out crazy fast. Sadly, that muscle memory is taking up neurons that'll never be used for anything else.

> taking up neurons

As long as they're not being used to hold "celebrity" biographies ...

(Sometimes I'm sad I even remember some names ... There's only so much crap one should be asked to take in to live in society ...)

TIL Google had a Yahoo Answers clone...

Not exactly a clone, you had to pay to get answers on Google Answers.

> "Asker-accepted answers cost $2 to $200. Google retained 25% of the researcher's reward and a 50 cent fee per question. In addition to the researcher's fees, a client who was satisfied with the answer could also leave a tip of up to $100." [0]

I'm quickly understanding why I've never heard of Google Answers.


It turns out advertising is still more profitable than charging users.


^G^G^G We have a winner, folks.

I’d prefer ^D^D^G.

omg how is http://answers.google.com/ still up and running with a 2-generations obsolete UI framework.

But look how fast it is!!

Thanks, saw it in my lecture notes a while ago and figured it was a formatting error...

“Argument by analogy is very powerful and utterly fallacious” — my high-school Theory Of Knowledge teacher (Mr Dawson you’re the best)

That said, I’m really not enthused by this under either the business (relevant case history: Nest) or privacy perspective.

I agree with Mr. Dawson.

Argument by analogy is weak.

Communication containing analogies is powerful.

I do not find it useful to say "If A is like B, then all the things about B must apply to A." This forces us to find perfect analogies, and encourages too much bickering over how well the analogy applies.

But I do find it useful to use an imperfect analogy to illustrate something that you have already established directly. So establish that mergers between #2 and #3 rarely end up beating #1 directly, and then say "It's like..."

Our minds are not cold calculating machines. Colourful, humorous, and/or emotionally laden analogies do help us learn things and remember things.

I have found a similar thing going on with illustrations in blog posts. If you have a section about cascading failures in a digital service, and you include an illustration of dominos falling down, it does help people grasp and remember your point.

Even though obviously, cascading service failures are entirely unlike dominos, and it would be quixotic to attempt to reason about services from the things we know about dominos.

This is what I always try to tell people but I like the way you worded it: analogies are for communicative understanding, not argumentation.

All analogies are approximations. Even though they may not be argumentative, picking out flaws in analogies often presents as attacking a strawman.

If I can dynamically alter the spacing between the services ... or take a service out of the fall path before the crush comes. :)

Welcome back! I very much enjoy your meta cognitive viewpoint.

Analogies aren’t universally bad but they’re not really arguments.

You need to have an argument for the two things being in the same category for them to make sense.

Since I have drawn such unexpected interest in the subject and power of analogies (and the broader class of mappings they belong to, metaphors), might I suggest Surfaces & Essences by Douglas Hofstadter (of Godel, Escher, Bach fame) and Emmanuel Sander. It is a very insightful, powerful, and amusingly self-referential cinderblock-sized tome on how the ability to draw inferences, create and manipulate metaphors, and have a sense for where they do and don’t apply is a central issue for “general artificial intelligence” (you know, the MIT-cantered, Marvin Minsky-fuelled, LISP-encoded “symbolic AI” that eventually plunged into ‘winter’ only to emerge, phoenix-like but neutered, in our ‘modern’ statistics-based Machine/Deep Learning guises).

Analogies are certainly useful. I recall reading that Hawking first had the idea of his eponymous radiation ‘emanating’ from black holes by way of a calculation performed by a Russian physicist (whose name escapes me at the moment) that argued that a sphere of ferromagnetic material should ‘emit’ tiny but theoretically detectable amounts of electromagnetic radiation. I forget the details. But apparently Hawking’s brain drew the analogue between the inverse square laws at play, the virtual particles, and the non-permeability of the objects and set out on his quest for what eventually made him world-famous.

I myself am a prolific, if somewhat irreverent, manufacturer of analogies, metaphors, and euphemisms. I remember the general horror of my family members when I asked great-grandma why she had been moved to “the launch-pad ward”. In my defence, I was six.

A common antipattern here in HN comments is someone using an analogy (which is almost always bad), and then the responses devolving into arguing over how the analogy isn't correct.

I honestly think a "no analogies" rule for commenting would do more to facilitate good discussion than the existing "no jokes" rule. Analogies are almost never useful. Even the ancient Greeks realized this.

"You're painting analogies with an awfully broad brush."


"Painting with a broad brush" probably began as an analogy, but once enough people use it, it becomes an idiom. If understanding is shared between speaker/writer and listener/reader, idioms are a useful shorthand for sharing some commonly understood argument.

So useful, in fact, that people often forget what the original analogy was. For example, the verb "rewind." How many people using it think of reel-to-reels, cassettes, or videotapes?

"Painting with a broad brush" is not an idiom, since it's meaning is deducible from its content, not only its contex. It's a metaphor (literally false as written, but calls to mind an analogy with truth -- both the comment and broad brushes apply the same thing to many targets without any careful differentiation)


Great link, thank you, I will use these words with more rigor in future. I think that “metaphor” is a much better word for the thing that is used to illustrate or add emotional oomph to an idea rather than to argue its merits.

Analogies can sometimes be a useful supplement to make an argument easier to digest, they just shouldn't be used as a substitute for a coherent argument. The latter tends to lead to what you're describing here:

>A common antipattern here in HN comments is someone using an analogy (which is almost always bad), and then the responses devolving into arguing over how the analogy isn't correct.

> Analogies are almost never useful

That statement is too broad to possibly be true.

And demonstrably false: what are numbers and arithmetic if not metaphors for acts performed on actual objects? “Get three apples, give away two, share what’s left with your sister” is encoded in the arithmetic analogy (3-2)/2.

Analogies... are more pernicious than you think.

Indeed, if one wishes to be extremely extreme, one might go as far as to argue that all language is ‘analogy’, insofar as it assigns symbolic monikers to real-world objects. Furthermore, phonetic encodings (alphabets) are a further level of analogy, as they posit that (for example) the “in” in “indeed” is “similar enough” to the “in” in “insofar” to be denoted with identical symbols. Those symbols are, themselves... you guessed it... analogies, metaphors, and other various kinds of abstractions.

Analogies are like the electricity of communication.

Well played.

However, if the merging companies compete in the same market, it would be fairer to claim that "It's like taking the number two and number three sprinters in the world, and having them run IN SERIES against the number one sprinter." (emphasis mine).

Because number two and three companies merging to a new number one does in fact happen.

(Note that this is the case here, though. No idea where Google is going with this.)

I don't know that that analogy follows, because agglomerations of thousands of people doing a complex task really aren't that comparable to two people doing one simple task.

Taking one example I know of second-hand:

My brother worked for the #2 company in his industry at the time they acquired #3 in an effort to overtake the market leader. It worked out disastrously. It turns out that #3, despite being the less profitable (and therefore less valuable) company, was also physically larger. Internally it had a lot of inefficient ways of doing things that resulted in them needing a lot more people to accomplish the same volume of work.

You might think that #2 was then able to lean up #3 and make them more profitable, as part of the acquisition process. But it just isn't that simple - this was a large multinational with ossified internal procedures that were baked into the very infrastructure (both physical and IT) of the company. Things were never going to change overnight.

So, instead, what happened was that, over the next 1-2 years, #3's culture got imposed on the employees from #2, by simple virtue of the #3 camp being twice as many people. So, in the years since then, the #1 company's market lead has consolidated into outright market dominance, as a result of their #2 competitor suddenly becoming no more competitive than their #3 competitor.

Happened to a company I started working at. Long story short, I joined as an engineer when one 15 year old based company that was clearly still running like it was 1995 bought a lean tech startup with smart/focus people and proceeded to impose its really inefficient, old culture onto the newly acquired folk. Lots of clash, tons of shit talking, and people leaving left and right. The giant company ended up selling for basically nothing to another company because leadership had no direction and it was all a huge failure. A giant waste of a year of my life. Culture clash is very real, and it'd be interesting to study to figure out how potentially bad acquisitions/mergers can be predicted from other angles besides economic growth or "owning a larger portion of the market"

Just one year? That's a brief stint to learn a lot of valuable lessons about organizational behavior. And you probably have some great stories.

It's easy to spend 3-5 years at a startup that implodes. One year is failing fast, and at least you got paid the whole time!

i rounded down, it was actually 1.5 years, but the stories i have are downright comical and belong in the silicon valley HBO show

if it isn't too much effort, can you briefly jot down a few of your favorite ones? Just like, I bet, quite a few other people here, I am actually very curious to hear some of those.

sure here's a comical one:

we were a healthcare company so HIPAA was very prevalent, and so that entailed a locked office which further included either taking your laptop home, or locking it up in a drawer. there were plenty of people who would just leave the laptop on their desks when leaving to go home due to the fact that the office was locked; one day I come into the office and am met with a bunch of coworkers telling me that the CTO came in early today and found that the door was open and all of the laptops people had left lying around were outside in the hallway, stacked. nothing was stolen, but clearly someone had broken in. it made zero sense, and a different coworker said that she felt unsafe and that we should call the police. the CTO immediately said that that was unnecessary and that we should just be more cautious. a few hours later we found out that this was all a ploy/lesson to teach us to lock our laptops away, and that the CTO was the one that stacked them up outside. he was later asking whether he should resign because of this embarrassment. real michael scott shit.

a non comical one:

we needed to build a viable infrastructure and one of our smart engineers found that we could use a hipaa compliant service (aptible) as a fast way, and spend a bit more. however the ancient dudes wanted us to hire some third party consultancy to build out some crazy complicated AWS stack, and unfortunately that was what we ended up doing because hierarchy. the project was being led by a person who wasnt an engineer, and surprise surprise, we were also locked into some crazy contract where regardless of the work they did, we still had to pay them an insane amount of money per month. the project dragged and dragged, and ultimately didnt work out. we had some half assed/half done AWS stack that no one knew how to deal with so NOW we had to hire an infrastructure dude to finish/manage it inhouse. so we hire this "hotshot" who turned out to be literally a money dump as well, and would show up to work about 45% of the time. no one knew what he did. it took him like 7 months to get that other project to SOMEWHAT work. he was getting paid i think like 200k to sit around and really do absolutely nothing. i was also convinced he was addicted to drugs on the side based on his manners when he actually managed to show up to work. by the time i had left, that AWS project was still incomplete and im positive that anyone with half a brain/aws experience could have built that stack in a month and a half.

and then of course there was the day to day of trying to get information from the acquiring company's employees and trying to cut the red tape of actually getting shit done, but they were very clearly used to bureaucracy type of work environment where every decision took ages, and some people were offended by the most minor things when we attempted to speed things along.

Is this Thomson merging with Reuters to take on Bloomberg? Everything you describe here sounds like it.

I didn't have a specific example in mind, but I believe your example works.

I was mainly thinking, in general, of industries that have experienced significant consolidation.

> But it just isn't that simple - this was a large multinational with ossified internal procedures that were baked into the very infrastructure (both physical and IT) of the company. Things were never going to change overnight.

I mean, it could have been that simple: #2 could have just entirely liquidated #3 and taken over their brands, marques, and physical assets like buildings, without retaining a single employee or officer of #3; or if they did keep the employees, it would just be by putting them into an "internal talent pool" where they're being paid to do nothing for a month or two, while they get filtered through #2's HR department as if they were new hires, either being placed in #2's structure or dropped.

This would mean that #3 would be essentially erased from the marketplace at the moment of acquisition: no further revenues, but no costs either, all creditors paid off by #2, etc. #2, however, would also immediately be free of the effects of #3's competition on their bottom line, which might balance out that lack of #3-revenue for them quite well. Many customers previously using #3 would find that they had simply stopped communicating or delivering on their promises for a period—and if they were going to switch allegiances based on that, who better to switch to than their still-business-as-usual acquirer, #2?

And, of course, presuming #2 already had logistics pipelines feeding the same markets as #3, and produced essentially-indistinguishable products from #3, it wouldn't take long to just start producing #2 products with #3 brands slapped on them and start sending them to their new base of #3 customers, to return things to normal. (But in the mean time, they'd have already received many of those customers as switchers to #2, without having to "fool" them with the #3 brand.)

I believe this is the strategy employed by one of the big successful examples of M&A: Anheuser-Busch InBev. When the beer giant acquires another brewer, they don't keep them making beer; they just tear them apart, throw the acquired company away, and suddenly customers of MomNPop Beer Co. are drinking AB InBev beer in a MomNPop can. (They don't even keep the MomNPop brewery itself; there are economies of scale that make operating a bunch of small breweries silly compared to operating one huge megabrewery. They just strip it, sell the equipment for scrap—because otherwise they'd be encouraging someone to start another competitor!—and then sell or rent out the land, if owned.)

> I mean, it could have been that simple: #2 could have just entirely liquidated #3 and taken over their brands, marques, and physical assets like buildings, without retaining a single employee or officer of #3

Oh my goodness.

So, they would have bought this existing large multinational, with a huge existing client list, base of installed product, all sorts of SLAs and support contracts, all sorts of infrastructure for supporting all of that, etc, and immediately fired everyone who knows how to manage it all!?!?!? And what, then just immediately hire several thousand people to replace them 24 hours later, and have every single one of them up and running and productive in a jiffy?

> This would mean that #3 would be essentially erased from the marketplace at the moment of acquisition

Yep. . . followed by #2 being erased from the marketplace by lawsuits within a year or two.

> all sorts of SLAs and support contracts, all sorts of infrastructure for supporting all of that, etc

We're talking about different verticals, here. Product businesses can get away with this. Service businesses probably can't.

Even in service industries, though, there's a simple hack: when #2 acquires #3, they keep #3 running for a few months, but they make #3 push a change to the SLA, where service provided by #2 in lieu of service provided by #3 will be considered an acceptable service-level. They only begin liquidation of #3 once all #3 customers have signed onto the new SLA. Then, when the lights are turned off on #3's infra, all #3 customers are temporarily just provided with #2 services.

Again, this is mostly a thing with product businesses, or, say, logistics providers, where the product/service is "pushed" to the customer by the provider, and the customer doesn't need to change how they do things, they just need to take receipt of the alternate product/service from the new provider for a while. "MomNPop beer is unavailable for a month, but here's a truckload of existing AB InBev 'indie-branded' stock to put in its place until we get our new marque spun up."

This is less of a thing if we're talking about a "demand"-driven business, like, say, a SaaS API provider, where the customer has to communicate to #2 or #3 through an API, and they have different APIs. This can still be made to work, but it's all about how long the transition period takes. Google's purchase of Nest looked like this, with a transition period of two years. But it wasn't temporary; with a transition period like that, you may as well just shutter the #3 "API" entirely.

(Example I can think of where this does happen in a service industry: cell-service MVNOs getting acquired by their own infrastructure provider. If ISP #3, an MVNO who uses ISP #2 as their network, gets bought by #2, there's nothing in #3 that #2 wants or needs, other than their customers, and maybe #3's brand value. So they just tell #3 customers that they're going to be #2 customers for a while (i.e. their phone will be "roaming" onto #2's network all the time, but they'll be charged regular #3 prices for it.) Either every customer from #3 is then pivoted into being a "real" #2 customer; or, if #2 keeps the #3 brand around, their #3 service starts working "normally" again a while later, as just a marque of #2 (if they stuck around with #3 instead of checking the box on their monthly bill that offers to switch them to #2.)

> and immediately fired everyone who knows how to manage it all!?!?!? And what, then just immediately hire several thousand people to replace them 24 hours later, and have every single one of them up and running and productive in a jiffy?

You don't hire the "new"-from-#3 employees to service the #3 accounts. #2 employees service the from-#3 accounts. #3 employees come in at the bottom, as if they were outreach hires.

> followed by #2 being erased from the marketplace by lawsuits within a year or two.

I mean, not if #2 doesn't own #3 when it liquidates, they don't. A company doesn't have to literally acquire another company; they can just pay it to commit suicide, and then pick up the pieces. Who do you sue, if your provider-of-choice #3 just decides to fold?

Or, even more sneaky, #2 can just figure out a way to enter into some kind of financial arrangement with #3, where it then slowly squeezes #3 to death... and then picks up the pieces. (Do you know what happened to Target in Canada? Do you know why? Hint: all the land the Targets operated on was leased to them... by Walmart! And now, after Target set them up nice and neat, and then got squeezed out of the market, they are Walmarts.)

I don't see how this analogy is apropos. Here's another analogy that works the other way: Adding an extra tube to a single-tube tunnel improves the efficiency of the tunnel greatly. Why is the runner analogy better than this one?

Tunnels are passive, people are creative. Adding a second tunnel doesn’t require interplay from the first. Adding a company of people is subject to whatever the sociological equivalent is of Amdahl’s law, whereby there is extra overhead to coordinating their work with your current employees, and don’t forget cultural integration.

I wouldn't exactly say running a 100 yard dash is creative.

Let me ask you this: why do we run 100 yard dashes? (If you'll allow, I'm going to ask you up to four more whys, maybe we'll find out something interesting!)

Because your tunnel is not competing against a superior, dominant tunnel.

EDIT: Also, the runner and eagle analogy seam to criticize the line of thinking that would lead people to assume you can just smash together two companies and end up with a company that is better than the current market leaders. The tube analogy doesn't touch on that at all..

> assume you can just smash together two companies and end up with a company that is better than the current market leaders

But you can. Think of regional phone companies (the baby bells), which merged and became dominant just by dent of natural monopoly.

Anyway, my analogy is exactly the opposite of that critique. It's the optimist's view (which is also the view of the decision-makers at the companies, so it's not to be dismissed easily).

> you can just smash

I think you may have glossed over the "just". Of course they "can" but it's not "ergo" in the sense that 1 + 1 = 2 ergo you are now better than the 1.5 company.

I don't view the tunnel as being the optimistic antithesis of the turkey or runner analogy. The other two are not meant to be postulations pending mathematical proofs but critiques on simplistic thinking.

>> "It’s like taking the two guys who finished second and third in a 100-yard dash and tying their legs together and asking for a rematch, believing that now they’ll run faster."

Funny, that's exactly what it has looked like till now since the announcement about Microsoft and Facebook ML teams joining forces to go up against Tensorflow. :-)

I can't find this quote, or anything like it. Was it recent?

Not an exact quote, I'm going from memory. I believe it was many years ago.

It was actually Dan Lyons, as quoted by Gruber:


Thanks, attribution fixed. Now that we've got that sorted, what do you think of the analogy with respect to this deal? Does it—cough—fit?

Oops, turns out Lyons was just quoting Steve Ballmer:


It's aphorisms all the way down!

The usual algorithm is to follow the attributions until you reach Samuel Clemons, Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, or Laozi. They are said to have said everything.

> They are said to have said everything.

Which one of them said that?

Raymond Smullyan. He established how they could say things about things they said.

Man, that whole article is worth a read ten years on, in light of the topic at hand. He quotes Ballmer, then shows how Ballmer considering turning around and doing just that for lack of better ideas, all the while (Lyons posits) knowing it won't work.

“Two cripples do not an athlete make”

— folklore

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