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Apple's next act: Team up with Nike on a 'smartband'?

The company might not launch the long-awaited smartwatch, but could be partnering with Nike to deliver a new smartband that tracks activity -- according to a report.

Nike's FuelBand Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple and Nike may be secretly working on a new smartband, a new report claims.

The two companies have been working together on a wearable device that will launch toward the end of this year, Geektime is reporting, citing sources familiar with their plans. However, Apple and Nike aren't working on the long-rumored iWatch, the sources say, but a smartband that would come with a number of sensors capable of tracking movement and operating other devices, like a smartphone, with just gestures.

CNET broke the news last week that Nike has laid off most of its wearable-device team and could be planning to get out of wearables altogether. Nike has remained tight-lipped on its exact plans, but as of this writing, its FuelBand fitness tracker is still on sale and will likely remain so for the time-being.

That Apple and Nike might be partnering on a device is no surprise to some analysts. Speaking recently with CNET, Nike analyst Jim Duffy of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. said that a partnership between the companies is a no-brainer, adding that it's "likely that an Apple hardware offering would be supportive of the Nike software."

The tale becomes all the more interesting when one considers just how closely Apple and Nike are tied. Apple CEO Tim Cook serves on the Nike board of directors, and Nike has worked with Apple since 2006 to develop products, starting with Nike+ Running.

According to Geektime's sources, Apple and Nike are putting the finishing touches on the smartband in preparation for the device's launch later this year. Exact functionality isn't known at this point, and it's not clear how Nike's technology would be integrated into the device, but it seems possible that the shoemaker's software would play an important role in the smartband.

CNET has contacted both Apple and Nike for comment on the report. We will update this story when we have more information.