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Nike to place footprint on digital devices

The athletic gear manufacturer unveils a high-tech sports division that will introduce a range of devices and gadgets under its brand.

Athletic shoemaker Nike is the latest nontechnology company to embrace digital devices.

Nike today unveiled a high-tech sports division that will introduce a range of devices and gadgets under the athletic gear manufacturer's brand this year. It will first introduce a portable digital music player, expected in July.

The sports company is partnering with S3, which markets the Diamond Rio MP3 player, to develop Nike Personal Sport Audio (PSA) Play 120--a Diamond Rio with the Nike brand stamped on it.

Although such devices have been marketed to joggers and athletes in the past because they're shock resistant and lightweight, this is the first player to be released by a sports company. In doing so, Nike is one of several companies exploiting the growing popularity of devices and gadgets to expand its businesses or gather customer information.

For example, last month Virgin said it was giving 10,000 Internet appliances for free to customers willing to allow the entertainment company to track their movements on the Web. Other companies, including Net retailers, are expected to follow suit, since wireless devices allow consumers to purchase goods and services from any location.

The PSA Play 120 will include 64MB of memory and remote control; Nike is developing a line of athletic apparel with specially designed pockets to hold the device.

Following the release of the PSA Play 120, Nike will introduce the SDM Triax 100, a speed and distance monitor for runners; the HRM Triax 100, a heart rate monitor; the ACG Ascent Compass; and the PSC Communicate, a two-way radio, the company said.

The devices will be sold through Nike's Web site and retailers such as Circuit City and Best Buy. Nike will also make digital music downloads and content available through its site.

Formerly known as a graphics chipmaker, S3 has said previously that a key part of its future strategy will be alliances with outside companies to release third-party devices. Along those lines, the company launched its Rio Audio branding program last week.

S3 CEO Ken Potasher has said that the chipmaker gets a "substantial cut" of revenues from such deals and has predicted that the Rio MP3 player will eventually be available in cell phones and personal digital assistants.

"Sports and fitness is a natural market for the rapid adoption of digital audio," Mike Reed, director of marketing for Diamond Multimedia, said in a statement.