By  on May 24, 2006

NEW YORK — Steve Jobs, Lance Armstrong and marathoner Paula Radcliffe provided the star wattage Tuesday when Nike and Apple trumpeted a new partnership and unveiled the first product they have developed — the Nike + iPod Sport Kit.

During a highly scripted press conference announcing the news to hundreds at Chelsea Piers, Nike chief executive officer Mark Parker explained how the kit has a wireless system that allows a sensor placed in Nike's Air Zoom Moire to talk to Apple's iPod nano to keep runners up to speed about their workouts. By merely touching a button on the iPod, wearers will hear an update of the distance covered, the pace and miles to go, and when energy levels droop, they can touch a button to automatically play their power song, whichever one they have selected as their most motivational.

Unassuming as ever in a pair of Levi's and a black mock turtleneck, Jobs, Apple's ceo, said half of the 50 million people who bought iPods last year use them while working out. He also noted that Nike sells about 200 million pairs of sneakers each year. Indubitably, the need for sensors should help Nike's annual footwear sales, since no other company currently offers such technology. The next best thing is Adidas' 1, $250 running sneakers equipped with a sensor and a magnet to continuously adjust cushioning while the wearer runs.

Nike approached the computer giant 18 months ago and the goal was "to make it really great, but make it really affordable." Jobs said. "Both companies are technically driven companies, just in different ways."

Parker, a 27-year Nike veteran, repeatedly said how the company always is looking for big ideas, singling out the brand's Nike Air 360 footwear, Swift technology for high-performance activewear and Triax watches as previous technology.

The $29 kit will be available within the next 60 days in the U.S. through Apple's and Nike's freestanding and online stores, as well as at select stores. But all those workout updates won't come cheaply. The kit is useless without what the brand is calling Nike+ footwear, a new subcategory of footwear that includes the Air Zoom Moire, which currently retails for $100, and an iPod nano, which starts at $149. Nike apparel with pockets for iPod nanos also will be sold.

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