Detailed within a report on CNET, it’s possible that Nike could eventually halt all future hardware production on the FuelBand fitness tracker since the company just laid off nearly 80 percent of the team that was responsible for developing and revising the hardware. In addition to the FuelBand, the Digital Sport hardware team at Nike was also responsible for the Nike+ sportwatch and other tech-related products. The team was involved in the software design process as well as hardware engineering, industrial design and manufacturing.
News about the layoff originally broke on Secret, a social network that allows people to post anonymous messages. Likely posted from someone on the team in order to speak anonymously about the executives in charge of the layoff, the message read “The douchebag execs at Nike are going to lay off a bunch of the eng team who developed The FuelBand, and other Nike+ stuff. Mostly because the execs committed gross negligence, wasted tons of money, and didn’t know what they were doing.“
According to a source within Nike, some of the employees will be staying with the company through May and others will be placed on various teams within the company. The employees on the Digital Sport hardware team are split between two different locations, thus could require relocation. Thirty employees work at the Hong Kong office and the other employees on the team work at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
Releasing a statement about the shift in direction, Nike public relations spokesperson Brian Strong said “As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities. As our Digital Sport priorities evolve, we expect to make changes within the team, and there will be a small number of layoffs. We do not comment on individual employment matters.”
Speaking about the FuelBand line of products, Strong continued “The Nike+ FuelBand SE remains an important part of our business. 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.” Of course, this could simply mean that the remaining stock will be sold and Nike won’t be pursuing hardware improvements to track other metrics related to fitness.
It’s likely that Nike will shift focus to developing more fitness software applications that will be able to run on smartphones and smartwatches. It’s also possible that Nike will broaden it’s ongoing partnership with Apple in order to offer a software solution for future Apple products, potentially the long-rumored Apple iWatch.
A reason for the shift away from hardware development could be limited sales of the FuelBand. The fitness device market has been getting more crowded over the last year. Beyond major brands like Fitbit and Samsung, a number of crowdfunded projects are promising to develop much more advanced fitness trackers. For instance, the Atlas on Indiegogo supposedly evaluates exercises, tracks form and estimates calories burned based on your performance. Another example would be the FlyFit on Kickstarter, a fitness band that wraps around the leg to track leg strokes when swimming, pedal turns when cycling or steps when running.