Nike Drops Out Of The Fitness Tech Race

Amid a burgeoning market for fitness trackers, Nike has shuttered development of its successful FuelBand hardware and will instead refocus its efforts on creating fitness tracking software in addition to apparel.
Photo: Nike

The move has insiders wondering what’s next for the emerging wearable market, as the $49.36 billion company was largely responsible for popularizing the notion of fitness bands in the first place with a bracelet that counts steps and measures activity levels. The fact that a popular fitness company was offering the product made it that much more appealing and got the ball rolling for smaller startups producing ever more niche products.

Other fitness band companies are also in flux, including industry leaders FitBit, whose most promising product was pulled from shelves last year when it was found to give users rashes. This comes at a time when, according to eWeek, one in six consumers who have heard of wearable tech are using it, and 61 per cent are fitness bands.

Nike stepping away from the fitness hardware market may also pave the way for other tech giants to forge new paths. There has been much speculation that Apple may have a fitness tracker slash smartwatch of its own on the way. The two companies have have a long history together, including special FuelBand functionality for iOS devices and the earlier Nike+ Move apps and hardware.

GigaOM speculates that the FuelBand’s demise may really be Nike stepping aside and letting a more experienced company deal with the hardware, while it turns its efforts to making the Fuel tracking system into more of a platform for app developers to build on. According to Kif Leswing, it could actually usher in a new era of wearables.

“By making Nike software and Apple hardware one and the same, Nike not only gains a huge installed user base, but Apple gets a user-facing feature no other handset maker can match: fitness from a world-famous fitness company,” he writes.

Nike-branded software could corner the market in the fitness app world, which has grown in parallel to wearables. MyFitnessPal’s Calorie Counter boasts 8.7 million users, while more niche products like Runkeeper still weigh in at an impressive 2.1 million users, with a good percentage using iOS devices to access those services. 46 million people in the US use fitness apps on their smartphones, according to eWeek.

With Apple focusing on a maybe-iWatch and Nike tackling the app world, we might just see massive expansion in fitness tech as a whole. It can spread the word to consumers who have never used the word “wearable” outside clothing, and foment even more competition among newer companies to provide a greater range of products to the public.


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