It's been a few weeks since Apple
I'm talking the Nike + iPod Sports kit, which really only hit the market last week. The kit includes two doodads, one of which you shove into your shoe. This device can measure your speed and transmit that data to another doodad that you stuff into the backside of your iPod Nano. The resulting pace, time, and distance information gives you feedback on your workout. In order to use the kit, you need to buy Nike running shoes with the built-in receptacle.
Now, I'll admit that's kind of cool, and pretty clever. But will it really, as a Nike PR officer claimed, "change how people run?" Well, maybe. After all, stuffing a blaring iPod into your ears so that you can't hear Biff bear down on you in his two-ton SUV is a great way to get a broken leg, and that sure might change how you run.
Let's get real. Accelerometer-based foot pods with wireless data readout to watches have been available for years, including systems from Nike. Many of these offer more data and better weather-resistance than you'd expect from an iPod. Moreover, there are even slicker options for workout tracking. (Garmin's
So this is hardly revolutionary. And in order for it to succeed, a few things need to happen. First, runners need to own a Nano, which costs more than a few bucks. Next, you need to run with your Nano, something that a lot of runners -- hardcore runners, the kind who tend to buy the most running shoes, actually -- find abhorrent and dangerous. ("Real runners don't need music," said a young whippet I spoke with on the day of this momentous announcement.)
Finally -- unless you're handy with a Dremel -- it means you need run in Nike's shoes, specifically, the models that fit the pod. And there's the rub.
Hard-core runners are usually extremely loyal to their running shoes, because everyone's foot and gait is unique. When they find something that works, they stick with it, rather than risk discomfort or outright injury. When I asked the whippet if she'd give up her trusty Brooks in order to get a pair of Nikes that she could then outfit with an iPod running gizmo, she gave me one of those pitying looks, the kind people save for those who just don't understand.
In other words, I suspect that the majority of people purchasing this iPod foot gizmo could just as easily track their daily mileage by measuring the distance from the couch to the fridge and back, then multiplying that by the number of bottle caps in their lap at the end of the night. Will that make for a sticky consumer audience? I doubt it. I see these in the closet next to the Abdominizer.
Will shareholders see a great benefit? Doubtful as well. Apple may sell a few more Nanos, but I figure most iPod sales are made for other reasons. And for Nike, the numbers game looks less compelling. If a million runners grabbed the Nike shoes, kit, and one of their special iPod-accommodating shirts, you'd add just more than 1% to the top line.
Luckily for those interested in Nike, it's already looking cheap, so that any incremental revenues (and profits, let's hope) will just be icing on the cake.
Seth Jayson has been running since he was a wee sprite. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.