Nike Shoots Down Reports of Killing FuelBand

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Nike may have axed most of its FuelBand team, but that doesn't mean the fitness tracker is on death row, or at least that's what the company is saying. When news of the layoffs leaked, speculation arose that the company was pulling out of the hardware market and would focus instead on software for fitness trackers, including Apple's rumored iWatch.

Nike FuelBand may not be DOANike FuelBand may not be DOA

News surfaced late last week that Nike fired between 70 and 80 percent of its FuelBand hardware team, according to CNET. Nike confirmed there would be a "small number of layoffs," which doesn't exactly fit with the 80 percent figure unnamed sources tossed out.

That same report also said Nike saw its software offerings as the more important choice moving forward. Such a decision could be seen as a preemptive move to save face by getting out of the hardware side of the wearable fitness tech market before the competition heats up even more -- a move that doesn't seem very logical considering the FuelBand's popularity.

Backing up the notion that bailing on its fitness hardware doesn't make sense, a Nike spokesperson told Re/code,

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.

The company didn't, however, elaborate on why some of its staff was fired. Insider sources said the decision was months in the making because of slim margins, high expenses, and production problems.

Assuming Nike is scaling back on its FuelBand products, it could be a calculated move to align itself closer with Apple and the company's unreleased wearable fitness offerings. Apple is likely well on the way to shipping some form of wearable fitness tracker considering the number of related hires it has made over the past couple years, and that could be a good fit for Nike's own software plans.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is also on Nike's board, which could be yet another indicator of the two company's planned alliance in the wearable tech market. A strong partnership now could give Nike exclusive software access to Apple's devices, or at least a head start over other developers.

Considering how competition in the already hot market is likely to increase, Nike may be looking ahead now for ways to give itself an advantage. An advantage that, for now, meant cutting jobs.

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If Nike is worried about competition in the wearable fitness tech market now, just wait until Apple gets in on the game.

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Kelly Guimont

They were good at software to start with, the Nike+ stuff that came with the little orange puck you clipped to your shoes was pretty solid.

And honestly given how many people work at Nike if it really was about 55 people, that’s not a lot overall for Nike. How do I know? Nike’s world HQ is about 20 minutes from my house, and I know people who work there. It will be noticed but Nike shuffles people and projects around all the time.

What makes this interesting to me is that both Adidas and Columbia Sportswear are here in town and if they were looking to pick up some folks with wearable experience, it sounds like they’ll get their pick of the market sooner than later. Three stripes and a pedometer built-in? Mountain Hardwear/Sorel boots or Montrail shoes that are waterproof AND help you keep track of how far you went? I’d buy a pair.


Jeff, Kelly:

I too think it more likely than not, particularly given Nike’s longstanding relationship with Apple (not that that makes a company immune to being swept aside) that Nike are aligning themselves with Apple and their imminent rollout of a wearable that, by best estimates, will perform and surpass, anything on the FuelBand.

As a FuelBand customer, I can attest that the software works just fine and is continually being updated. I suspect that the device itself is no money maker for the sports giant, and that what Nike value more than the slim earnings they make on the hardware, is the substantial gains they stand to make in mindshare and collateral benefit as an integrated solution with the Apple iThing, whatever it may be.

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