Nike aims to corner the market inhi-tech devices for the e-athlete

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The Independent Online

Everybody else is doing it and now Nike is doing it too: going digital, that is.

From July, the sportswear company will offer a new line of sports-focused electronic accessories. Among the products being developed in Nike's"Techlab", are a digital audio player, a hi-tech walkie talkie, a portable heart-rate monitor and a watch for Alpine sports enthusiasts that features a compass and altimeter.

Clare Hamill, vice-president of Nike's equipment business said: "Athletes are demanding more information. Our mission is simple: to lead the convergence of sport and technology."

Symbolic of Nike's new departure is its portable sport audio (PSA) player based on MP-3 technology. With research showing nearly two-thirds of people who buy portable music players using them during workouts and other leisure pursuits, Nike believes it makes sense to offer a product that, unlike portable CD players, has no moving parts.

The PSA is built around a 64-megabyte chip that holds up to 120 minutes of digital music files. They can be downloaded from the internet or converted from CDs and because MP-3 is chip-, not disc-based, it is power efficient, light and can't skip. Unlike Diamond's popular Rio model, however, the Nike product will be oval in shape, allowing it to fit into a pocket or be worn on the body.

For snow-boarders and other Alpine sport enthusiasts, Nike have the Ascent Compass, a wrist piece that combines altitude, weather, thermometer and navigation functions.

For joggers, the Oregon-based company will update its Triax ergonomic running watch with a new 100 model that offers heart rate information, a full chronograph and lap timing. Although Nike wouldn't provide sales projections for the digital products, the company hopes to match the success of the original Triax watch, which has sold around 2.5 million units since its launch in 1997.

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