23 April 2014

Nike looks at the future of wearables and ceases Fuelband production

Nike Fuelband
One of the seemingly hottest wearables from one of the biggest names in the business, the Nike Fuelband, isn’t as hot as it might have seemed. Reports claim that Nike is ceasing production of the device, and has fired most of the Fuelband’s staff. Has Nike discovered something about wearables that competitors have yet to realize?

Wearable computing is in purgatory at the moment. Despite Samsung’s big push into smartwatches, you don’t see anyone wearing them on the street, at the grocery store, or even the gym where they, in theory, are the most useful since they would replace the cumbersome armband phone-straps. Google’s face-based wearable, Glass, is currently struggling with asking a staggering entry fee for a device that doesn’t yet do much, but also makes you look very silly (though the company is attempting to rectify this issue). Fitness bands are perhaps the most prevalent wearable, but they’re generally nothing more than a glorified pedometer, though Razer’s Nabu and Samsung’s Gear Fit attempt advanced (messages, for instance) smartphone integration.

Though not as advanced as say, a James Bond watch that doubles as a full desktop PC and stun gun, the wearable market is flooded. Reports suggest Apple will even get in on the game come iOS 8 with a wealth of integrated fitness software. So, if reports are accurate, why is Nike jumping ship when it has one of the most recognizable brand names and wearable devices on the market?


According to a report by Cnet, Nike is shutting down the majority of its Fuelband division and axing its plans to release a slimmer model of the device this summer. The report claims that around 70% to 80% (around 55 people) of Nike’s Digital Sports team responsible for wearable hardware have been let go. A source claims that Nike is shelving all future physical projects underneath the Digital Sports banner, but it won’t stop selling the second-gen Fuelband SE for now.

Nike won’t be completely exiting the fitness market though it’ll be refocusing its efforts from hardware to software. In fact, Tim Cook has been sitting on the Nike board for nearly a decade. If anything, it’s more efficient for Nike to leverage its relationship with Apple’s CEO and aim for some kind of software partnership or integration. Apple not only has a much larger install base with its iPhone, but hardware is expensive to produce especially when it’s underselling, regardless of its name recognition. If Nike could finagle itself into Apple’s ecosystem as a featured partner, that would help its fitness tracker ambitions more than the Fuelband ever did (or even could).

Nike didn’t make clear why its Fuelband development will cease, but obviously if the product was succeeding it wouldn’t be facing this news. Though this might be the death knell for Nike’s Fuelband, it also might be an indicator of the wearable market. There is no question that, at some point, in the future wearable devices will be the norm, but perhaps that future is farther than just over the horizon when the applications are more than just things you already do on your phone.

If one of the most recognizable wearable brands is bowing out of the market already, what about all of the other brands aren’t even remotely as recognizable?

courtesy extremetech


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