Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, Adidas announced plans to shutter its wearables division as it shifts its focus away from hardware to technology partnerships and fitness-tracking software.
The German sports company has invested heavily in wearable technology over the past few years, with the miCoach Smart Run smartwatch being the most notable product of its portfolio. Despite this, it looks like there won't be any more Adidas wearable devices coming to market. The company will now place its efforts on fitness-tracking software such as Runtastic, an app it acquired in 2015, as well as a revamped Adidas shopping app.
To its credit, Adidas was once a leader in athletic wearables. The company began making wearable devices back in 2001 and in recent years has been expanding its miCoach family of devices. This included a wristband tracker for running, a chest strap to measure heart rate and even a connected football. Adidas moved away from its miCoach line after it purchased Runtastic in 2015.
Adidas isn't alone in discontinuing its fitness hardware business. In the same vein, its chief rival Nike also cut back its endeavours in fitness wearables in favour of digital partnerships and product connectivity. Rather than make its own hardware, Nike has linked up with Apple for special versions of the Apple Watch — all three generations of the Apple Watch offer Nike editions — after discontinuing its FuelBand tracker a few years ago. Even Under Armour, a trending name in sports gear, announced that it is abandoning its Health Box suite of devices to concentrate on its fitness app ecosystem.
Adidas has been in the wearables business for 15 years, offering smart watches, smart clothes and even connected shoes and footballs. It would seem that the company's vision and innovative efforts would have given it an early-mover advantage, but as it often the case, one company breaks in the market for others.
Although Adidas may be backing out of developing its own wearables, it's wisely looking to form major collaborations. It has forged a partnership with Fitbit to release an Adidas-branded version of the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch in 2018. Sports giants are teaming up with technology companies to be successful in the wearables space.