Fitbit CEO James Park: Why We Entered the Smart Watch Market

August 21, 2018, 8:01 PM UTC

In March, Fitbit announced the newest member of its family: Versa, a true smart watch, rather than the more rudimentary fitness trackers that the company is known for.

The company pitched the $200 device as the lightest metal smartwatch on sale in the United States, capable of heart rate tracking and sleep monitoring as well as the connected services expected of a “smart” device: messaging, payments, and so forth.

Mere days after the announcement, I sat down with Fitbit CEO James Park at Fortune’s Brainstorm Health conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif. to walk through the strategy behind the product. Park told me that Versa, which replaces Fitbit’s Blaze, is meant to help the company enter the health care business, rather than mere fitness.

“We’re trying to integrate more deeply with the healthcare system, and help people manage more serious health conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, et cetera,” he said. “To do that, you need much more functionality than is typically available in a traditional tracker. We needed a bigger screen, more advanced sensors, different form factors. That’s really why we entered the smart watch category.”

Fitbit’s first such device, Ionic, was focused on so-called “performance” users; its newer devices, Park said, are meant to appeal to the mainstream. Versa comes with interesting new features, thanks to improved hardware; it can, for example, measure blood oxygen in your body and detect sleep disorders like apnea.

It’s all in pursuit of serving people with “more serious health conditions,” Park said.

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