A lot of companies are racing to claim their share of the wearable device market, but on Friday, one major player pulled out of the race. Fitness gear maker Nike is getting out of the wearable hardware game and refocusing its FitTech efforts on software, according to reports.
Cnet broke the story, reporting that as many as 55 people were let go from the Nike division that develops the $149 FuelBand hardware. Plans to come out with a slimmer version of the FuelBand this fall have been shelved. Instead, Nike is putting its efforts into software, leaving the business of developing wearable fitness hardware to other companies.
Could one of those companies turn out to be Apple? You can’t browse the Web these days without scrolling upon a rumor that Apple is going to develop some sort of wearable. News that Nike will instead focus on fitness-tracking software could mean a pair up with some Apple-built device—especially when you consider that Apple CEO Tim Cook sits on Nike’s board of directors.
Cnet cited a person “familiar with the matter” as the basis of its report, and got an email confirmation of sorts from Nike spokesman Brian Strong who told the website, “As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities.”
Strong has also told the press that “there will be a small number of layoffs,” and in aseparate statement that made emphatic note of its Apple partnership, Nike said it will continue to support and improve the Nike+ FuelBand SE for the “foreseeable future.”
Nike’s FuelBand is a rubber wristband that tracks movements via a built-in accelerometer, converting your activity into NikeFuel points and motivating you to meet daily exercise goals. The single-button device won praise for its simplicity—not to mention some criticism for a lack of features.
Nike released a new version of the FuelBand last fall. It remains on sale at Nike’s online store, even as Nike is apparently shutting down its hardware efforts.
We’ll follow up on this story as more details emerge. For now, should Nike keep developing activity-tracking software, the fitness giant will at least have some presence in the wearables market. Its impending exit from the hardware side of things, though, proves just how hard it is to stand out amid the myriad Fitbits, Gear Fits, and other wrist monitors, even when you’ve got a world-famous swoosh on your label.