Nike chief Mark Parker defines his company’s relationship with Apple as bullish and says the duo is working to develop wearable tech that will be more stealthy than the market’s current offerings.
Apple CEO Tim Cook sits on Nike’s board of directors and several of the athletics firm’s wearable tech team has defected to Cupertino to work on the incoming Apple Watch. The two companies are deepening their partnership, playing to each other’s strengths to propel the world of wearable tech, says Parker.
“Technologically we can do things together that we couldn’t do independently,” says Parker. “So yeah, that’s part of our plan, to expand the whole digital frontier in terms of wearables, and go from what we say is tens of millions of users — right now there’s 25 million Nike+ users — to hundreds of millions.”
The wearable tech market is expected to move 19 million smart watches and fitness bands in 2014, with that figure ballooning to 130 million annually by 2018. Parker says he thinks wearables will be a mainstay in the future as the devices are a way for users to learn more about themselves and the world around them.
“I think it’s going to be a big part of the future, absolutely,” says Parker. “I think what form it takes is the big question. But I think people getting more information in a simple, user-friendly way, and getting feedback that helps them understand themselves better, is a way to improve yourself and, I think, connect with other people to keep pace with what’s going on in the world.”
Wearable tech, however, isn’t without its obstacles, two of which are aesthetic appeal and interoperability. A design approach designed with “stealth” in mind could make smart watches and smart glass mesh with traditional fashions, which Parker says is critical.
“I think the form it takes is what’s critical. You can go from very geeky kind of wearables today — we’ve seen, all seen some of those — to, I think, what you’ll see in the future are things that are more stealth, more integrated, more stylish and more functional, yes,” says Parker.
On the compatibility side, recent studies by Wearables.com and PricewaterhouseCoopers indicate Apple may need to widen its network beyond its own ecosystem and handpicked partners. For mass adoption of wearables, technology firms will need to drop the exclusivity of the past, says Mike Pegler, principal at PwC’s U.S. technology practice.
“For wearables to be effective across both primary and secondary devices, there needs to be an established frequency of measurement,” says Pegler. “Enterprises must forge partnerships and develop IT and platform alliances to deliver seamless experiences on both the front-end and back-end of wearable implementations.”