Pebble recently shipped its first smartwatches to backers of its Kickstarter… (Courtesy of Pebble )
Last spring, the creators of the Pebble smartwatch shocked the tech community when their Kickstarter campaign raised $10 million.
It was still a long road from when the campaign closed in May to when Pebble finally started shipping its first smartwatches to backers in January. And while the initial batch of watches came out in a slow trickle, the pace kicked up in late February and early March.
And now, 10 months later, Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky is thrilled with the reception the product is receiving and to finally be getting feedback from users.
"This is the first time we’ve been able to lift our heads up from the manufacturing process and hear from our users," he said.
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As of Monday, Pebble had shipped about 32,000 watches and hoped to have them in the hands of all the original backers within the next few weeks. If things go well, in May the watch will go on sale to regular consumers for $150.
Pebble got to this point only because of the huge outpouring of support it got on Kickstarter, after being turned down repeatedly by venture capitalists. But while having 68,929 people back the campaign was gratifying, it also meant Pebble had to rethink its manufacturing plans on a larger scale. It also allowed the company to build in more features than it had originally planned.
Both factors led the company to push back the initial delivery date of September. Migicovsky said even if the wait was frustrating for some, it was ultimately worth it.
"I think we managed to cram all the hardware we were excited about into the project," he said. "What we’re working on day to day to Pebble is software."
Pebble will continue updating the software that runs the watch, and users will get the latest version through continual wireless updates.
As part of that process, Pebble will soon release a software developers kit (SDK) that will allow third parties to write apps.
"Nobody has really designed apps for the watch yet," Migicovsky said. "There's never been a programmable watch platform like Pebble. I'm pretty excited to open it up, make it possible for developers to take it and make it their own."
Meanwhile, rumors have surged that Apple is going to release its own smartwatch later this year. Though Apple can't be ignored, Migicovsky said Pebble has the advantage of working with both Android and iOS.
"What we’ve shown over the past year is that consumers are very interested in smartwatches," Migicovsky said. "Having a massive competitor come into the market will shake things up. But as long as we continue to execute and ship, there will be a market for our product."
Certainly Buford Taylor, a San Francisco engineer, was thrilled to finally receive his Pebble watch last week.
Among other things, it means the days of having to worry about being scolded for checking email on his smartphone while out to dinner with his wife are over.
Taylor believes wearable computing is going to be the next big thing and is eager to understand what that means. He’s paired his Pebble with both an Android Nexus 4 and iPhone, and says that while he’s happy with it so far, he’s hopeful that developers will write more apps for it soon.
"Right now, I’m in a limbo state where I want it to do more, but at the same time I don’t want it to turn into my smartphone," he said.
In the meantime, he’s also keeping one eye out for Apple. As impressive as the first-edition Pebble is, he’s curious to see what Apple, with all its resources and people, could do.
"Apple could crush Pebble in the blink of an eye," Taylor said. "All Apple has to do is design something that looks nicer that has one or two key features. Luckily, I’ve got two wrists."
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