This morning, Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky woke up on the couch of his startup's hospitality suite in the Venetian. By mid-day, he was announcing the 2.0 version of his crowd-sourced smartwatch that is out-innovating consumer tech giants Samsung and Sony.
Not a bad day for a startup founder.
Migicovsky and his team unveiled the Pebble Steel, the next iteration of the now-famous Pebble smartwatch that raised $10 million on Kickstarter in 2012 and landed on over 300,000 wrists in 2013.
The details of the Pebble Steel include:
- Smaller and thinner form factor
- Made of forged and CNC-machined stainless steel
- Two configurations: Brushed Stainless and Black Matte
- Comes with two bands: Matching metal band and black leather strap
- E-paper display
- Corning Gorilla Glass (with anti-fingerprint coating)
- 5-7 days of battery life
- New RGB LED in lower left corner indicates charging status
- Price: US $249 (includes free shipping for pre-order)
- Ship date: January 28
- Order at getpebble.com
Also see photo gallery: First look: Pebble Steel smartwatch has professional cred
There's no question that the new Pebble has a much higher-quality finish to it. The fact that both of the models come with a leather and a metal band speaks to the fact that Pebble is targeting the professional set. This looks like watch that you could see both a suited investment banker and rigorously-casual hipster wearing.
But, the even bigger deal for professionals was that along with the Pebble Steel announcement, the company also unveiled the Pebble appstore, which it calls, "the very first open platform for sharing apps optimized for wearables." The appstore will work within the Pebble app on iOS and Android where users can then select and download apps directly to the watch.
For professionals, this is going to open up lots of exciting opportunities for pushing glanceable business information to the wrist. You can imagine getting alerts for key data points, business process updates, maybe even the ability to quickly approve or deny requests directly from your wrist. It will be interesting to see if Pebble eventually opens up a private business app store for companies that want to only make apps available to employees for privacy and security reasons, the way Apple has done its App Store.
While app stores are a dime-a-dozen, Pebble has actually created a little developer momentum. When the product first launched in early 2013, there was disappointment from many early adopters over its lack of functionality. However, the company iterated its software, got a dedicated set of developers interested in doing custom watch faces and extending functionality with apps, and has signed up partners like ESPN, Mercedes-Benz, Pandora, Yelp, Foursquare, GoPro, and iControl to allow the Pebble to lots of other cool stuff.
DON'T MISS: Wearable Device Policy template from Tech Pro Research
Three years ago, Migicovsky and his early teammates were walking around CES knocking on the doors of the press trailers of Engadget and the rest of the tech press, asking them if they were interested in hearing about this smartwatch idea and interviewing them. That was before the wearables boom. That was before the Kickstarter campaign. Now, Pebble is disrupting the giants.
While the Sony and Samsung CEOs head back to their plush accommodations somewhere on the Las Vegas strip tonight, Migicovsky will head back to Pebble's hospitality suite in the Venetian, tuck his bag in one of the closets, and sleep on the couch. He'll have to get up early and be ready before the business team starts their meetings in the morning.
But, while Migicovsky may not have the plush accommodations or the big whiz-bang press event or booth, he does have the product that's likely to be the biggest hit in the hottest category at this year's CES. The Pebble may still be highly masculine and the screen may still look like an 8-bit video game—Minecraft lovers will dig it—but of all the wearables at CES it is the most useful, and the one that will matter most to people who use these tools to get their work done every day.
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Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.