Rumor: Apple, Nike developing sensor-laden fitness band that controls other devices via gestures

nike fuelband se

File this one under the ‘Obvious’ (or is it?) tab. According to a new report Tuesday by Geektime, citing sources familiar with their plans, Apple and Nike have banded together to secretly engineer a new smartband said to have been scheduled for a major announcement this Fall.

Needless to say, Geekwire doesn’t have an established track record in terms of rumors so you need to take the story with a grain of salt. Of course, such a notion just makes lots of sense on many levels.

As a reminder, CNET learned last week that Nike is in the process of shuttering its wearable-hardware division that produces FuelBand-branded accessories. These things are worn on one’s wrist, track one’s health and fitness data and work in conjunction with a companion iPhone app.

The sportswear company reportedly let go the majority of the team responsible for the development of FuelBand hardware as it reportedly concentrates its efforts on a secretive collaboration with Apple…

Geekwire has learned from its sources in Cupertino that “a quiet collaboration with Apple” actually prompted Nike’s big reorganization moves.

While leaks regarding the new iPad and iPhone seem to hit the news stands every other day, another product which is currently in its final stages of development in Cupertino is the actual cause for a move by Nike a few days back that led to the dismissal of nearly a third of its digital division’s workforce responsible for the Nike FuelBand.

The report goes on to claim that the iWatch – as Apple’s rumored wearable devices has been nicknamed by the press – is actually a fitness band rather than an actual smartwatch.

Tim Cook wearing Nike FuelBand
Tim Cook wearing a Nike FuelBand.

Apple’s been working “for a long time” on this project, asserts Geekwire, adding that Tim Cook & Co. are shooting to launch the gizmo towards the end of 2014. Its many sensors, the story goes, can not only monitor the activity of the wearer, but also “operate other devices as a gestural controller”.

The following excerpt is interesting.

Nike knows something you don’t. Nike is being very secret about the whole matter but when Apple launches its new smart band later this year things will become clearer. Until then we can say that Nike will play a significant part in shaping the next Apple’s next product. 

The notion is echoed by GigaOm:

If Nike exits the physical wearable market, as now seems likely, Apple will be the primary sensor maker for Nike’s future wearable apps given the length and depth of the two companies’ close ties.

Although there are a handful of Nike apps available for Android, there is no app (on any other mobile platform aside from iOS) that supports NikeFuel, which Nike describes as the “heart of the Nike+ ecosystem.”

In many ways, this is the culmination of a process that’s been taking place between the two companies for the better part of a decade: Nike will design the fitness app experience, and the hardware will be made by Apple.

“The Nike+ FuelBand SE remains an important part of our business,” a company spokesperson told CNET last week. “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.”

Nike PLus Move
Nika’s Move app got air time at the iPhone 5s introduction last Fall.

A few things.

Apple and Nike are longtime partners, having created the Nike+iPod shoe-sensor package back in 2006. Nike+iPod gear and other Nike+ products are sold in Apple’s brick-and-mortar and online stores.

Nike will be publicly releasing an API for its Nike+ hardware this Fall, as part of the firm’s Fuel Lab initiative. Its Move app launched as an iOS exclusive, featuring support for the iPhone 5s’s M7 motion coprocessor.

Finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been sitting on the Nike board for the last nine years. Plus, he is a FuelBand fan and was spotted wearing the accessory at the iPad mini launch in October 2012.

Can you connect the dots?