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Wednesday, May 24, 2006, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

BW looks inside Apple's partnership with Nike

Apple Computer's recently announced partnership with Nike began last year when Nike dreamed up the revolutionary idea of allowing running shoes to talk to an iPod and then contacted Apple to develop the technology behind it, Business Week reports.

"A while back we asked a big question: Could we harness the power of digital technology to improve a runner's experience?" Nike CEO Mark Parker told the publication. "We quickly realized that making a smart shoe wasn't smart enough."

So Parker reportedly contacted a friend: Apple chief executive Steve Jobs. The result was the Nike+iPod Sport Kit, which both execs believed was a "great start" to a partnership that they hope to branch out further in the coming months.

According to Business Week, when Nike and Apple designers met for the first time 18 months ago, the teams simply clicked. "Both companies are technology-driven companies. It's just that we work in completely different areas of technology," Jobs told the publication. "We are semiconductors and software, and Nike is anatomy and precision-molding and thin-film technologies. What's interesting is the people are very similar."

It wasn't all fun and games from the get-go, as the designers were initially met with some pivotal challenges. The sensor embedded in the new Nike Moire running sneaker was initially too big for Nike designers and too small for Apple's team, according to the report. Meanwhile, other challenges centered on the life of the sensor's non-replaceable battery, which Apple says will last close to 1,000 hours.

"Wireless takes power," Jobs told Business Week. "The last thing you wanted was a wire going down your leg. It looks deceptively simple and that's how it should be. It took a while to get it right. But there is a lot of technology there."

Keeping the price of the kit at $29 was also crucial, according to Jobs. He wanted everyone to be able to afford the technology, which he claims is 90 percent accurate straight out of the box.

Parker said there are about 4 million Nike+-ready running shoes in circulation right now, a number could soon balloon to 10 million. In all, Nike plans to offer seven styles of shoes that will be iPod-ready. They'll include the just-announced Air Zoom Moire and several other models from the company's Nike Shox and Air Max lines.

Although both CEOs confirmed to Business Week that the experience of developing the Nike+iPod Sport Kit is just the beginning of a broader strategic relationship, neither cared to get specific.

"It's fun to apply technology in an area where A, it's never been done before, and B, everybody involved in it wants it for themselves. That's always a good sign. Everybody involved in this says, 'This is so cool,' It's great to work on things like this." Parker told the publication. "The connection between the two different products and the potential it creates is huge."

More on the Apple/Nike partnership is available in the Business Week report.