Apple hires Nike’s design director for wearables

Ben Shaffer (Nike Innovation Kitchen 001)

It’s been barely a little more than a month since news broke of Apple hiring a prominent Nike FuelBand developer and now comes word that Tim Cook has managed to lure away another high-profile Nike executive. Ben Shaffer, Studio Director of Nike’s research and development lab dubbed Innovation Kitchen, is working for Apple in unknown capacity.

It certainly doesn’t take a genius to figure out Apple hired him for his expertise in wearables. Nike is Fast Company’s 2013 most innovative company and the Innovation Kitchen is where Shaffer and his team conceived such wearable smash hits as the popular Nike Fuel Band and the Flyknit shoe…

Mark Gurman, reporting for 9to5Mac, speculates:

It seems highly plausible, based on his specific experience in shoes and wearable gadgets, that Shaffer will be working on upcoming wearable products for Apple.

Of course, Apple is working on a watch, but it seems possible that the could be working on wearables beyond those for the wrist. Former Apple executive Tony Fadell recently revealed that Apple even toyed around with wearables akin to Google Glass.

Nike PR has confirmed to 9to5Mac that Shaffer is no longer with the company.

Last month, iDB told you about another high-profile hire as Nike’s Jay Blahnik, a widely recognized fitness expert and key FuelBand developer, had taken a new job at Apple.

Here’s Ben Shaffer talking design:

By the way, ‘Studio Director of the Innovation Kitchen’ has got to be one of the greatest job titles ever.

Both poaching instances are a little unusual given Apple’s boss Tim Cook and special projects lead Bob Mansfield both wear a Fuel Band fitness accessory.

Making matter even more complicated, Apple’s boss is a Nike board member.

I’d imagine Cook increasingly excusing himself from Nike board meetings as Apple steps more boldly into Nike’s territory. And just like the then Google CEO Eric Schmidt stepped down from Apple’s board four years ago due to conflict of interest, the Nike board could soon ask Cook to give up the board seat.

Nike FuelBand with iPhone

I’m thinking to myself, maybe Apple is hiring all those wearable experts to help take the company’s fitness accessory ecosystem to the next level. In that regard, the iPhone 5s with its M7 motion coprocessor could represent the first step in that direction.

The chip, basically a rebranded NXP LPC18A1 module, takes continuous measurements from the handset’s accelerometer, gyro and compass sensors, allowing the main A7 processor to stay idle and conserve power.

iPhone 5s keynote (M7 specs slide)

The M7 has been specifically conceived with fitness apps in mind.

Fitness apps “can access that data from the M7 coprocessor without constantly engaging the A7 chip, so they require less battery power,” Apple writes.

The M7 also knows when you’re walking, running or even driving and iOS 7 on the iPhone 5s includes a new Motion Activity section in Settings where apps that have requested access to your motion activity appear.

First fitness apps to take advantage of M7 motion sensing: Argus and Strava Run.

In addition to the two Nike guys, Apple also hired a renowned fashion designer.

This should be interesting.

By the way, not once have I mentioned iWatch in this article.