Mobile apps are, as we well know, the New Hotness.
First there was Apple with their App Store (2008), then Google with the Android Market (2008, renamed Google Play in 2012). RIM came out with BlackBerry App World (2009 renamed BlackBerry World in 2013), then there was Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace (2009, which became Windows Phone Store in 2010), Amazon Appstore (2011) and, bringing up the rear, Microsoft's Windows Store (2012). Next year the Firefox Marketplace will open to distribute apps that run on Firefox OS.
Now we have the prospect of Nike, yes, the company of the "Swoosh" and "Just Do It", creating its own apps and possibly even its own app market. According to an article in the Wall street Journal, Nike "is embarking on an experiment that it says is increasingly crucial to its business: encouraging software developers to build applications for its FuelBand activity-monitoring device."
In case you haven't come across it, Nike's FuelBand (yet another product name formed by eliding two words and capitalizing the second ... it's a miracle they didn't use a röck döts), is a bracelet with an LED display that monitors your activity to track youe fitness.
Launched in February last year the FuelBand is the latest in a series of electronic gadgets Nike has attempted to market and the first to sell as well as the company hoped (from the product launch: "They opened it up for preorder with a tweeted link at 5pm just now, sold out by 5:04 and people got screwed because the site crashed. ******* insanity. Can't wait for the homicides to start.").
Because data from the FuelBand can be uploaded to Nike's site for analysis and archiving the company has an incredible trove of user behavior data at its disposal and to encourage the creation of killer apps, it's giving the aggregated user stats to selected developers. This is a great idea but as the WSJ article points out, if Nike's going to be (forgive me) in the running to dominate the fitness monitoring market they're going to have to pick up (forgive me) the pace and innovate a lot faster than they have done in the past.
But what really struck me was an observation that Nike had to start thinking like a tech company rather than a sporting goods manufacturer
"Failing to update and improve Nike Plus annually showed that Nike wasn't thinking like a tech company," said Matt Powell, an analyst at consultancy SportsOneSource. "The pressure now is for them to move at a faster pace."
This kind of reorientation has become unavoidable for any brand that has any kind of opportunity in the digital world. Indeed, those companies that have yet to find their electronic toehold and adapt to the expectations of the new markets will find themselves (forgive me) still on starting blocks when the competition is already well into the race.