Nike is making waves in the running community this week.
First, the company signed a lucrative $500 million sponsorship deal with USA Track & Field. Now it's going to scale back from the wearable tech market—at least on the hardware end.
Nike will fire most of the engineers who worked on the FuelBand tracker, CNET reports. The company will keep developing software, but it’s cancelled other hardware projects—including the updated FuelBand that was set to debut as early as this fall.
According to CNET, the company told the 70-person engineering team about the layoffs Thursday. That Digital Sport hardware group built the FuelBand as well as the Nike+ sportwatch and other sport-specific projects. About 55 of those employees were fired, CNET reports, but it isn’t known how many of those people will stay at Nike under different divisions. No one was fired from Nike Digital Tech, the department that makes Web software.
You will still be able to buy the second-generation FuelBand SE—for now. The company plans to “sell and support the Nike+ FuelBand SE for the foreseeable future,” Nike spokesman Brian Strong told CNET.
Given the close ties between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Nike (where Cook sits on the board of directors) many speculate that Nike is leaving the hardware business to partner with Apple and other companies on their wearable tech projects. Just last year, Apple reportedly hired one of Nike's top directors from the FuelBand project to help spearhead development of its own wearable tech.
"Apple is in the hardware business. Nike is in the sneaker business. I don't think Apple sees Nike as competitive. It's likely that an Apple hardware offering would be supportive of the Nike software," Jim Duffy, a Nike analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, told CNET. "Nike would be content to let Apple sell devices, as long as they would be supportive of the apps."