Though I haven’t paid much attention to the Nike+iPod Sport Kit in recent months, every time a high-profile Apple event rolls around I secretly hope for an announcement (or even a mention) of the popular running gadget. I’ve almost stopped being disappointed by the silence. Almost.
At Apple’s WWDC this past Monday, I really wanted to see someone from Nike take the stage and show off a new Sport Kit iPhone app (there’s already been one report that they’re working on it). I’d love to be able to upload my runs and check my stats directly from my iPhone. As it stands now, the Nike+ website is still completely inaccessible to iPhone users since it’s built entirely with Adobe’s Flash technology (which the iPhone doesn’t support). It’s amazing to me that in a year’s time, Nike hasn’t been able (or willing) to put together a mobile version of the site so iPhone users can check and show off run data.
With third-party apps coming to the iPhone in a few weeks, now would be a perfect opportunity for Nike to announce the next generation Nike+ system; Especially since the iPhone 3G has one feature that could eliminate the need for it altogether: GPS.
On one hand, the inclusion of GPS in the next generation iPhone could bring great improvements to Nike+, such as better accuracy, integration with maps, and location-aware social networking. But on the other, it won’t be long before software developers start rolling out iPhone GPS-based running apps that compete head-to-head with Nike+… and without the need for special sensors, dongles, or shoes. And considering how slow Nike has been with regard to their website development, I can easily see a young, agile developer quickly outclassing Nike on the software/social end of things. As cool as the Nike+ website is, I haven’t spoken with anyone who truly feels any connection or loyalty to it or the Nike+ “community,” and that’s a big opportunity for a new player.
So what can Nike do to ensure the survival of Nike+? Perhaps they already see the writing on the wall, which is why they’ve released the Nike+ SportBand (no iPod required) and announced Nike+ integration with gym equipment. Perhaps Apple has agreed not to approve any third-party GPS-based fitness apps for the iPhone (which I would personally find outrageous) in order to protect Nike+iPod, and iPod nano, sales. Or perhaps Nike plans to go toe-to-toe with third-party developers in the iPhone space, relying on their current market and brand recognition to keep them one step ahead of the crowd.
If Nike chooses the latter, they have an uphill battle ahead.
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