Nike and Apple Drive Health + Media Technology Convergence

Not surprisingly, marketing behemoths Nike and Apple just announced they are taking their collaboration, begun with the Nike + iPod system, to a new level. Starting this summer, the Nike + iPod system, centered around the iPod nano, will be usable not just with specialized Nike running shoes, but with treadmills, elliptical trainers, bikes and stairclimbers from companies such as Technogym, Precor, Star Trac and Life Fitness. Among the first clubs to use the systems will be 24 Fitness and Virgin Active chains. Users of the system will be able to configure and manage workouts from home, and then jack in to their favorite gym equipment to execute their exercise regimen of choice.

Both companies are creators of ecosystems in their respective markets (Nike with everything sports- and fitness-related and Apple with the iPod, iPhone and Mac ecosystems) and are now expanding and blending these ecosystems to encompass devices they don't make, specifically gym equipment that features prominently in most health clubs and fitness facilities. They are doing two important things in the process -- appealing to the younger, tech-savvy demographic that most gyms need to keep their business growing, creating a sticky application along the way, and Nike and Apple are also in a sense establishing a "fitness OS" that standardizes the training experience somewhat for a broad range of users. With limited screen space and input interfaces for much customization, typical gym equipment lacks the interactive features that can bind a user to the device. Allowing feedback and comparison of workouts provides an experience many Gen Y have come to expect from other devices they interact with on a daily basis.

Expect to see companies Nike, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, and Philips for example push to establish more turf in the health and fitness market as more health-minded young consumers look to apply technology to make their workouts more enjoyable, efficient and convenient, and also to take advantage of the needs of aging populations seeking to monitor and maintain their own health as they grow older.