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Missing the Mark

Sorry to drone on again about running, but this is a good discussion of product marketing and choosing the feature set to go to market with.

Nike SportWatch A couple of months ago I read that Nike was going to be releasing a GPS watch for running that worked with the Nike + running system. The idea is that you wear the watch when you run, and then you upload the data to the cloud where it keeps track of your runs and lets you challenge others (sort of like a Facebook for running). It also allows you to wear a heart rate monitor, which I have used because I am an old fat bastard, and don’t want to die out on the course.

If you dig into some of my prior posts you’ll find that I was big on Nike+ when it first came out and I loved the iPod integration. The big win was to get audio feedback. You could have your playlist of favorite running songs, and then it would automatically lower the volume and tell you “You have reached 4 miles, your pace is 9:00 per mile”, and then the music would go back up to volume. I just loved how it was completely integrated and seamless. Of course time marched on and I left Nike+ behind for two reasons – one was that the method of measuring distance (basically a pedometer in/on your shoe) was not very accurate. This was a real bummer when I thought I was at the race’s end, turned a corner and found I still had a tenth of a mile to suck it up. The other was that Garmin had a better system – similar cloud features (although not as sexy), and an integrated heart rate monitor.

When I heard about the Nike SportWatch I thought this would be the triple crown – GPS quality accuracy, Heart Rate Monitor, and integrated audio. I also freaked out and gave up my lunch hour today when I read my latest email from Marathon Sports, my local running store, who said that because of the marathon 2 weeks away they had them in stores and the rest of the world wouldn’t see them in stores until early May. I called and they offered to hold me one until lunch and I grabbed it (and my favorite Caprese sandwich from Tutto Italiano which was right on the way). Thank goodness the sandwich was as good as usual because I was disappointed with the watch.

The first bummer is that the band is just slightly smaller than my Garmin, and smaller than the last Nike+ watch/remote that I owned. The one notch difference is enough to be a back breaker for me, it’s just tight enough to restrict my movement. Even worse, because the USB connector is at the end of the strap it’s not like I could replace it with another band. It does look like I could use the heat gun to stretch the side without the USB connector, but I instead opted to sell it on eBay because of another issue – music is not part of the system. After my buying frenzy subsided I understand why it doesn’t work – both the watch and the iPod are only receivers, neither transmits so there’s no way to get heart rate, GPS and music all in the same system.

The good news is that because they are still kind of rare I got $60 more than I paid for it (which won’t cover my gas, time, the $10 pouch for the transmitter, $20 pouch of the iPod, yadda, yadda, yadda).

What really got to me was as I was trying to figure out how to make it work, I came across a number of solutions, all of which fall short. There’s software for the iPhone and the iPod touch that have differing degrees of accuracy (if you are using the accelerometer on the Touch or the iPhone GPS), but no heart rate monitor with this route. The iPod Nano works and one of the two versions does connect to the heart rate monitor but neither version has GPS. None of the Nike methods (this watch or a simple wrist band) have music. There’s at least 6 variations, none of which have the complete feature set. It’s really too bad – all the pieces are there to have a unique solution that has never been in the market, instead there’s a bunch of solutions, all of which competitors have already had out in the marketplace. Granted, it’s simple to use and the best looking one out there, but how many geeks are willing to pay to upgrade to a better looking pocket protector?