CES 2013: After Delays, Pebble Wristwatch Will Ship Jan. 23

CES 2013: After Delays, Pebble Wristwatch Will Ship Jan. 23

Steve’s breakdown: Fresh from CES: The featured video is how they paid for the production of 85,000 Pebble watches via KickStarter.

The news is they have a great product but no proper marketing.

SILICON VALLEY, CA: Pebble, the much-hyped wristwatch designed to connect wirelessly to smartphones to display information like text messages, whipped the Web into a frenzy last May when the project raised more than $10 million through Kickstarter, one of the crowdfunding platform’s largest campaigns to date.

Then, the Pebble created almost as much of a stir when the company hit several delays during production, provoking frustration and ire among the 68,000 people who had pledged their money in exchange for a watch.

But on Wednesday, Eric Migicovsky, the primary engineer behind the idea, promised that the company would begin shipping watches on Jan. 23.

“The models coming off the line look great and software is looking good,” he said in an interview late Tuesday night. “We’re just ready to get them out in the wild.”

Mr. Migicovsky officially announced the news at a conference in Las Vegas during the International Consumer Electronics Show, where he also showed off the final design and gave a demonstration of the features and interface of the watch.

The company originally promised that the watches would begin shipping last September, roughly four months after the project was first announced. Its creators expected to receive no more than a few thousand orders from customers. Instead, they were flooded with demand, ultimately taking orders for 85,000 watches.

“Pebble took off faster and larger than we ever expected and we had to switch to a Plan B, which consisted of a more traditional consumer product manufacturing process,” said Mr. Migicovsky. The company worked with a manufacturer in China, instead of producing them in Silicon Valley, as they’d planned.

Scaling the operation was a bigger challenge than expected, and included tweaks to product molds that were used on the production line. The company decided to hold off on announcing a new date until they were confident that the final product was robust enough to ship to their customers. The company’s software engineers have been busy tweaking the watch’s operating system and getting it ready to ship out.

“When you are making a couple thousand watches you can afford a few missteps,” he said. “But when you’re making 85,000 watches you have to make sure every piece of the puzzle fits together.”

Mr. Migicovsky said “tens of thousands” more watches had been pre-ordered through the Pebble’s online storefront, but the company would not begin shipping those out until all of their Kickstarter orders had been fulfilled.

The Pebble watch first appeared on the Kickstarter site with the modest goal of raising $100,000 in a month. It attracted much attention for its sleek e-paper display that is optimized for reading in sunlight and can deliver text messages and alerts to bikers and hikers who do not want to risk injury pulling out their phones. The founders also promise the watches will be able to withstand wet weather conditions, including rain and snow and being submerged underwater. The watches will come in several bright colors, including orange and red, and can work with other smartphone applications. Mr. Migicovsky said the Pebble watches would contain a compass and an ambient light sensor. In addition, the company worked to ensure that their software could be updated over the air, and Mr. Migicovsky said that he anticipated releasing updates every two to three weeks.

“We’ve thrown our hats into the ring and held up pretty well,” he said. “We’re proud to see our products alongside others in the market.”


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