Last week CNET reported that Nike terminated upwards of 55 people on their Nike+ and FuelBand development team. The company cited a shift of perspective on the direction of the fitness company as the reason for the layoffs. Today, Nike’s CEO Mark Parker appeared on CNBC to discuss the future of Nike’s FuelBand hardware and he may have inadvertently hinted at a Nike-Apple hardware partnership, otherwise known as the iWatch.
Parker spoke about the commitment to the FuelBand line in a recent interview with CNBC reporter Sara Eisen,. “Today we have about 30 million FuelBand users. We're hoping to push that to over 100 million,” Parker said. He also spoke about Nike’s partnership with Apple and how excited Nike is with Apple and “where that relationship will go forward.”
Eisen, seeing a golden opportunity, quickly asked about the Apple partnership, and the possibility of what most assume could be the iWatch.
“Well, can you give us a hint? Are we going to expect some sort of collaborative device coming out? Nike and Apple?” Eisen probed, steering clear of the device’s prospective name.
Parker seemed a bit flustered, answering, “I can’t really say that. There's been a lot of speculation, which I understand.”
His reaction to the question seemed a little off, like he was unprepared for a question of that nature. The uh’s and umm’s in between his words hint at his knowledge of something in the works. Whether that might be the fabled iWatch or something else is a different question.
Nike does have a long standing relationship with Apple. The Nike+ line predates the iPhone, originally launched as an accessory to the iPod in 2006. But the fitness tracker has come a long distance since the shoe sensor and iPod days. Now, gyms across the nation have cardio equipment with 30-pin connectors for iPods and older generation iPhones.
But Nike’s disbanding of the FuelBand hardware team, paired with Parker’s stuttering and commitment to the FuelBand customer base, indicate something on the horizon, perhaps something closer than anyone predicts.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook stated during Wednesday’s quarterly report call that Apple is “closer than it’s ever been” to a new product category. Currently, rumors point to the fall season for an iWatch announcement and launch window. But Cook’s comment and Parker’s hesitation might suggest a quicker release date.
In a little more than a month, Apple will most likely announce iOS 8 at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 2. With the current trend of fitness-related devices (e.g. the Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit), Apple is bound to announce their interpretation of an iOS health tracker. Many have dubbed this product 'Healthbook,' but others have questioned its application without a device to back it up. Perhaps, all things considered, WWDC will see more than just software releases, OS updates and the remodel of the Macbook lines; perhaps the iWatch will make its debut months earlier than expected.
Check out Parker’s interview in the video below.