Rumors are gathering that Nike is planning on leaving the fitness hardware game, after a report surfaced that Nike had laid off as much as 80 percent of its Digital Sport hardware team. This includes the majority of people who worked on the FuelBand tracker.
It’s notable that these lay-offs are in the hardware, and not software teams, and suggests that the company could be gearing itself up to focus on app work for other companies’ fitness trackers. As more smartphones and smartwatches feature GPS and pedometer features, the market is in a good position for Nike+ (the apps that track fitness) to grow. In recent months we’ve seen more mobile devices pushing their fitness credentials, and it’s also a crucial part of Google’s upcoming Android Wear program.
An official Nike statement has denied the company plans to exit from the market, though is pretty light on mentioning new products, other than color changes on existing FuelBands: “The Nike+ FuelBand SE remains an important part of our business. We will continue to improve the Nike+ FuelBand App, launch new METALUXE colors, and we will sell and support the Nike+ FuelBand SE for the foreseeable future.”
One possibility given the timing of the reshuffle is that Nike could be planning on supporting an Apple wearable device of some kind. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, sits on Nike’s board of directors and the companies enjoy a warm relationship: in 2006 there was a Nike+iPod shoe sensor package.
But what does this mean for the FuelBand and other more traditional fitness trackers, such as the FitBit and Jawbone? Well with no sign of Nike ducking out of the software market, it’s reasonably safe to assume that FuelBands will continue to work – the tracking software is far older than the physical band afterall, so it’s unlikely that the physical devices will become instantly obsolete.
Will they be superseded by smartphones, smartwatches and other wearable technology in the long run? It’s possible – the ability to map runs on apps via accurate GPS and internet connectivity for social competitiveness is an area that pedometers can’t match on their own. But like the classic MP3 player, now abandoned by most in favor of the smartphone, they will still do their job perfectly well should you wish to keep them going.