Nike is reportedly giving up on its FuelBand activity tracker, and a majority of the team responsible for the wearable has already been let go. According to a report from CNET, Nike wants to ditch wearables for good, despite playing a role in popularizing the activity tracking craze. Roughly 55 employees have been let go from Nike’s Digital Sport hardware team, which includes talent in industrial design and engineering in wearables.
For months Nike was rumored to release an even slimmer FuelBand with improved functionality, but what consumers got was last year’s SE, which was largely a rehash of the first iteration. The signs of a possible shuttering first surfaced when one of the FuelBand team’s top designers jumped ship for Apple, but it’s unclear if that was the beginning of the end. The company seemed unwilling to keep up with its wearable peers, and perhaps didn’t see a sustainable business for the longterm.
Nike is obviously enormous, and a top sports company exiting the wearable market is big news. Was competition from Jawbone and FitBit too much? It’s hard to imagine that’s what did it, especially when the FuelBand showed such promise early on. But it sounds like we’ll never get the next generation wearable that was rumored from Nike for so long.
Nike will reportedly keep its Nike Digital Tech division, which is responsible for Web software, but the majority of its hardware team is out; those that weren’t canned have been reassigned to work in other Nike divisions. Despite ditching future hardware, the sport company confirmed to CNET that it will continue to improve the Nike+ app, and may even launch new colors of its SE wearable.
The longterm goal for Nike, it sounds like, will be to get out of hardware and align its focus exclusively on software; perhaps its future software will support other, more open wearables. Apple and Google are expected to join the wearable market, so competition is certainly going to get even more fierce at the second half of this year. It’s a solid plan, really, to let others duke it out in the hardware department, but disappointing for fans of Nike’s FuelBand lineup.