Nike is said to be trimming its Fuelband team as the company moves its efforts away from hardware in order to focus on its NikeFuel and Nike+ software. What is next for Nike for may be a partnership with Apple to produce a Nike fitness app that could pair with Apple’s iWatch hardware, theorizes GigaOm.
If Nike exits the physical wearable market, as now seems likely, Apple will be the primary sensor maker for Nike’s future wearable apps given the length and depth of the two companies’ close ties. Although there are a handful of Nike apps available for Android, there is no app (on any other mobile platform aside from iOS) that supports NikeFuel, which Nike describes as the “heart of the Nike+ ecosystem.” In many ways, this is the culmination of a process that’s been taking place between the two companies for the better part of a decade: Nike will design the fitness app experience, and the hardware will be made by Apple.
In arguing for a Nike and Apple tie-up, GigaOm points out the long history between the two companies, which includes the 2006 Nike+iPod product, which paired a Nike sneaker first with an iPod Nano and later with the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch second generation. Most recently, Nike was a featured partner in the iPhone 5s launch, releasing its M7-compatible Nike+Move app shortly after the smartphone’s launch last September.
Nike earlier this year also announced plans to open up its Fuel fitness system to third-party developers as part of its Nike Fuel Lab initiative. Though not mentioned as being included in the program, one of these Fuel Lab partners theoretically could include Apple. In this scenario, Apple would bring the hardware expertise that Nike lacks, while Nike has the name recognition among the fitness crowd and slick marketing that Apple could leverage.
Apple is rumored to be releasing its iWatch with a late 2014 target launch date. Recent predictions from KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo suggests the iWatch could be Apple’s most important product of the year, surpassing even the highly anticipated iPhone 6.