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Nike CEO confirms FuelBand focus now on software, not hardware

Nike CEO Mike Parker says the sportswear company is winding down its wearable hardware efforts to focus on software after CNET reported last week it had dismantled its FuelBand team. A deal with Apple may be in the works.

Nike CEO Mike Parker Getty Images

Nike CEO Mark Parker said Friday that the division inside the sportswear company responsible for developing its FuelBand wearable fitness tracker would be shifting its focus to software, confirming CNET's earlier report that the company was getting out of the hardware race.

"We are focusing more on the software side of the experience," Parker said in an interview with CNBC when asked about its commitment to wearable hardware. "I think we will be part of wearables going forward. It will be integrated into other products that we create and that we're looking to expanding our partnerships to create more reach for the Nike Fuel and Fuel system that we have."

Parker was responding after a week of speculation over Nike's future role in wearables following a CNET story revealing that Nike had fired most of the hardware team behind the development of the FuelBand, released in February 2012, and its five-month-old successor, the FuelBand SE.

Not only did this put a looming question mark over the market for fitness trackers, but rumblings of a partnership with Apple, as Nike has done as far back as 2006 with Nike+iPod, have been running high. Apple CEO Tim Cook has sat on Nike's board since 2005 and shared the stage with Parker at Apple's May 2006 WWDC event.

Parker did not commit specifically on the downsizing, nor did he confirm that the company was giving up on the FuelBand. Rather, Parker said that the Nike+ software platform and app ecosystem using its Nike Fuel workout metric has 30 million users, and that the company wants to expand that number to 100 million. Nike intends to continue selling the FuelBand SE, as well as release new colors for the wristband in the coming months.

When asked about a partnership with Apple, which is reportedly developing either a smartwatch dubbed the iWatch or a device more in line with fitness bands, Parker hinted at a possible collaboration.

"I will say that the relationship between Nike and Apple will continue," Parker said. "And I am personally, as we all are at Nike, very excited about what's to come."

CNET has reached out to Nike for additional comment and will update this story when we hear back.

Update at 4:19 p.m. PT: A previous version of this article said that Nike had disclosed sales figures of its FuelBand devices. While Nike CEO Mark Parker did indeed say 30 million FuelBand users, he was in fact referring to Nike Fuel users, not the number of FuelBand units sold. Nike reported earlier this month that Nike+, the app ecosystem that uses its Nike Fuel workout metric, had reached 28 million users.