What's Going to Happen to Fitness Bands Now that Nike Isn't Making Them Anymore?

If Nike is getting out of the fitness-bracelet business, will other brands follow suit?

Image courtesy of Nike.

On the small chance you hadn't heard, Nike is going to stop making new versions of its Fuelband fitness tracking bracelets, citing a need to "continually align resources with business priorities." So if it's no longer a priority (read: profitable) for one of the best known makers of wearable technology to produce its own hardware, what's going to happen to other companies that still make similar products?

CNET reports that Nike fired 55 members of the 70-person team that's responsible for the bracelet late last week. From now on, Nike is now focusing on fitness software instead of developing more of its own wristbands. This fall the company will release an API (application programming interface, or how software components interact with each other) for its Nike+ platform, which its various apps run on. It also recently launched Nike Fuel Lab in San Francisco, where it will collaborate with other brands to create new apps for athletes.

If you already own a Nike wearable, don't fret: the company says it will sell and support the current Nike Fuelband SE for the "foreseeable future"—so other brands that make similar products, like Jawbone's UP24 and Fitbit's Flex, will still have to contend with Nike's market share for a bit longer. (Neither brand was immediately available for comment.)

The focus on software seems to be aligned with the arrival of more wearable hardware from potential competitors. A number of tech firms are slated to start selling watches powered by Google's Android Wear this summer, and it's rumored that Apple's iWatch will be available by September. Both of those releases would create major competition for Nike, so it would make sense for the company to drill down on improving software that can work with Google and Apple's new devices.

It's worth noting that Apple CEO Tim Cook has a seat on Nike's board, and it's been reported that he hired former Nike employees to come and work on the Apple iWatch—which will only make it easier for the two companies to work together.

What remains to be seen is whether this means trouble for other brands whose wrist bands won't be able to do as much as the upcoming gadgets from Google and Apple. And if Nike is getting out of the $150 step counter business, it might only be a matter of time before others follow suit.

—Details associate online style editor Justin Fenner.

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