Nike takes Apple's Ipod for a run

New York (NY) - You connect the Ipod to your computer to your computer, to your home stereo and to your car. Now Apple and Nike want you to take that extra little step to hook the device up to your workout wear: Nike will be offering a "Nike+Ipod Sport Kit" that connects running shoes with the MP3 player - not to playback music, but to store and display workout data.

The first product to be able to connect to the Ipod will be Nike's Air Zoom Moire, a higher-end running show that will retail for around $100. According to Nike, the model is equipped with numerous sensors that calculate various types of workout information such as time, distance, calories burned and pace. The information is transmitted wirelessly to an Ipod Nano, where it is stored and displayed. Alternatively, the device can also provide real-time audible feedback through the player's headphones.

After a workout, the Ipod can be connected to a computer system to synchronize and store workout data in a customized workout log on Nike's website. According to the company, the application allows users to track training goals, and review distance, time, pace and calories burned.

Since the Ipod does not have wireless capabilities, users need to purchase a "Nike+Ipod Sport Kit," which includes a thumb-sized wireless transmitter that is connected to the charger interface of the music player. The transmitter is based on Bluetooth technology and - at least theoretically - could also be used to support wireless headphones. Apple did not say if it will offer such functionality through the Sport Kit.

Nike said it will be expanding its Ipod wear this Fall with six more shoe models: (Air Zoom Plus, Air Max Moto, Nike Shox Turbo OH, Air Max 180, Shox Navina and Air Max 90.)

It is not the first time that firms such as Nike try to add some additional value by connecting their products to electronic devices. In the late 1980s, it was Adidas that actually integrated a microcomputer into a $180, funky silver shoe to track workout data. In more recent days, the company introduced the "Adidas 1," an expensive ($250) sensor- and microprocessor-equipped running shoe last year. And then there are various efforts to bring Bluetooth technology into sports wear, such as the collaboration between Burton and Motorola. The success rates of these efforts range from moderate to flop.

Can the Nike Sport Kit break the barriers and convince joggers and runners to enhance their workout with the help of the Ipod? On a positive note, the Nike/Apple model is the first truly easy to use networked model to store and track workout information, but some users may feel that the capability to track information only on Nike's web server and not on a local PC may be not enough. And then there's a Bluetooth device that is constrained to only one function and apparently works only with the Ipod Nano.