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Nike+ iPod Issues and Improvements


By hagrin - Posted on 20 August 2006

With only a week until the first ever New York City Half Marathon (in which I will be competing), I have been rapidly getting more and more obsessed with running competitively these days. In fact, I even bought a non-computer book today called Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner to psych myself up that the human body really can endure more than pain that our brain initially thinks. As I was shopping for this book, I was reminded (by an advertisement) of the partnership created by Apple and Nike to create a tracker that inserts into a runner's shoe and information is transmitted real-time back to your iPod Nano. For those not familiar with the concept, a person would purchase Nike+ shoes specifically designed with a small compartment under the sole to insert a small transmitter. Next, you would attach a receiver to your iPod Nano which will capture the results to your iPod. Finally, when you get back to your computer after your run, you could upload your running results to www.nikeplus.com and track your running and compare to the rest of the Nike+ community. Although I'm a willing adopter of this technology, this solution suffers from many drawbacks and those drawbacks may ultimately prevent me from using the Nike+ system.

The Problems:
1) The iPod Nano Limitation - Although the iPod Nano makes the most sense to design this system for due to its size and weight, many people who workout at my gym own iPods ... but not Nanos (I personally own a 5th generation 60GB Video iPod). Therefore, for me to adopt this system, I would need to purchase another iPod which really doesn't make any sense and is probably the ultimate reason why I won't buy the Nike+ system. If they provided alternative options for other iPod types, I would have bought the Nike+ equipment today in time for the marathon.

2) Does the Cost Justify the Benefits? - When you really think about it, this system doesn't really offer much more than the functionality you would get from a stopwatch, some simple math and a spreadsheet. Now, if you already have an iPod Nano and you were going to buy new running shoes anyway (principle of sunk cost), then the $30 price tag for the "Sport Kit" could be easily justified. However, if you need to buy the shoes, the iPod and the Sport Kit, you're looking at a minimum of a $250 investment (add another $100 if you get the larger capacity iPod Nano). Can you really justify the expense when you can easily track the same information in less expensive manners and you have to wear shoes you many not normally use when running? Is the "e-peen" factor enough to justify the expense as well?

3) Does Nike "Just Do It" for You? - Personally, I wear Asics as my primary running shoe so the "forced" switch to the Nike brand may not be welcomed for a lot of runners including myself. Without partnerships with other running shoe producers, many runners may shy away from this product because they will have to wear shoes they are not comfortable with wearing.

So now that we have pointed out the problems with the Nike+ system, what can Apple and Nike do to resolve these problems and hope for a more widespread adoption?

The Solutions:
1) Don't Discriminate - Apple should provide adapters to their full line of iPods and I can't really see the huge hurdle that they face being able to do this. The iPod software cannot differ too greatly across the different versions and the input interface located at the bottom of the iPod is pretty standard across all the iPod versions. If they add support for the rest of their iPod line, I would think they would see more adopters of this product.

2) More Friends, More Allies - Although I do see a very serious (and probably impossible) hurdle here, if Apple could partner up with other running shoe companies, the greater shoe options to runners would also allow for more runners to seriously consider purchasing this product. However, with the whole product being called "Nike+", I'm not sure if there is an exclusivity deal in place.

Unfortunately, even though I would love to purchase something like this, I just can't justify the cost considering I would have to pick up a second iPod to utilize the Nike+ product. Hopefully, Apple will come up with a receiver that will work on their other iPod models in the near future.