Apple reportedly snags top Nike designer, is he jumping from sneakers to iWatch?

Ben Shaffer
Shaffer's shoe expertise could prove useful at Apple

Update: A bit of clarification may have surfaced about Ben Shaffer's role at Nike, one that keeps him in wearables, but not the kind we associate with Apple's ambitions.

Fast Company, which interviewed Shaffer and other Nike designers and execs for a February piece, on Friday published a report that Shaffer didn't work on the FuelBand project. The word comes from "multiple sources" who said Shaffer wasn't involved in developing the fitness-tracking tech.

The Innovation Kitchen, Fast Company noted, is focused on footwear, and the FuelBand was developed by the Digital Sport group, which is housed in a separate building.

Of course, Shaffer could still be focused on wearable tech at Apple, including the iWatch, but it sounds as though experience designing the FuelBand wasn't a reason to bring him on board. Now the iShoe, that could be a different story.

Original article...

Apple's iWatch project may have just received another swoosh-shaped kick in the wrist.

According to 9to5Mac, Apple hired Ben Shaffer, studio director of the Innovation Kitchen, Nike's creative think tank, to very likely work on wearables. Nike confirmed to the site that Shaffer is no longer with the company.

With Shaffer in charge, the Kitchen crafted the Flyknit shoe, a lightweight, precision-fit sneaker. It's likely that Shaffer's work on the Flyknit is what piqued Apple's interest in him.

Shaffer and his Kitchen colleagues essentially created a new, more efficient manufacturing process for Nike with the Flyknit. The process "gets rid of all the unnecessary excesses," Shaffer described in a February Fast Company interview.

Apple design guru Jony Ive and his team spearheaded new manufacturing techniques to craft the unibody aluminum shells of everything from MacBooks to iPhones. Adding Shaffer's manufacturing as well as design acumen to Cupertino could prove a match made in heaven.

iWatch walker?

Shaffer sounds like he'd gel nicely with the collaborative efforts of Apple's design and engineering teams, and his area of expertise seems best suited to work on wearables.

While Apple is "obviously," in the words of CEO Tim Cook, looking at new device categories, it has yet to confirm it's developing a smartwatch in the vein of the Galaxy Gear.

Though we lack an official nod from Apple, all signs point to a wrist-warming computer coming from the IL. That it will have a fitness focus is also a detail that's hard to dispute.

Cook sits on the Nike board, and a host of Applers are known to rock FuelBands. Then there's the hire of Jay Blahnik, a fitness expert and Nike consultant, not to mention Apple's reported stockpile of health, fitness and sleep analysis experts.

Throw Shaffer in the mix and we're likely looking at an iWatch (if not even more types of wearables) that are lightweight, precisely built and powerful. A Flyknit for the wrist, if you will.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.