Nike CEO’s Comments Reignites Apple iWatch Speculation

Source: iWatch Concept by Todd Hamilton

Source: iWatch Concept by Todd Hamilton

Recent comments from Nike (NYSE:NKE) CEO Mark Parker have reignited speculation that the sports accessories company may be partnering with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to develop the long-rumored iWatch wearable tech product. Rumors of an Apple-Nike partnership were first sparked last week, when CNET reported that the company was exiting the hardware side of its wearable tech business to focus on software. Nike manufactures the wrist-worn FuelBand activity-tracking device.

Although Nike initially refused to reveal many details about the realignment, comments made by company spokesperson Brian Strong led many industry watchers to believe that Nike was preparing to team up with Apple for the iWatch. “Partnering with industry-leading tech companies is nothing new for Nike,” Strong told CNET. “We have been working with Apple to develop products since 2006, when we introduced Nike+ Running, and Nike has since created iOS Apps including Nike+ Training Club, Nike+ FuelBand and Nike+ Move.”

An appearance by Parker on CNBC on Friday did little to discourage the rumors of an Apple-Nike partnership. “We have partners that we work with,” Parker told CNBC’s Sara Eisen. “Obviously the most visible partner that we have is Apple. We’ve been working with them for a long time and we’re excited about where that relationship will go forward.”

Although Parker refused to confirm the existence of an Apple-Nike wearable tech device project, he also remained coy on the possibility. When asked directly by Eisen if the two companies were developing a collaborative device, Parker said, “I can’t really say that. There’s been a lot of speculation, which I understand. I will just say that the relationship between Nike and Apple will continue. And I am personally, as we all are at Nike, very excited about what’s to come.”

Besides keeping rumors of an Apple-Nike product alive, Parker also confirmed that the company was shifting its focus from the hardware side of wearable tech to the software side.

“We are focusing more on the software side of the experience,” Parker told CNBC. “I think we will be part of wearables going forward … it’ll be integrated into other products that we create and then we’ll look at expanding our partnerships to create more reach for the Nike Fuel and Fuel system. It’s really about expanding the reach of Nike Fuel and the best way to do that we think is through the best partnerships that we can find.”

Nike’s FuelBand device accounted for 10 percent of all smartphone-enabled activity trackers sold over the fifty-two-week period ending in January 2014, according to NPD Group data cited by MobiHealthNews. According to NPD Group, Fitbit’s devices currently dominate the market with a 68 percent share. In this sense, a partnership with Apple would likely be a huge boon for Nike’s wearable tech business. Although Apple has never confirmed the existence of the iWatch, there have been multiple rumors and information leaks that suggest the company has plans to unveil a wearable tech device this year.

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