Adidas miCoach faces tough fight against Nike+iPod in US

The miCoach Pacer is designed to help people achieve 2010 fitness goals

Athletic shoe maker Adidas launched the latest version of its miCoach training gadgets in the U.S. alongside the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week in the hope of enticing people to use the system to meet their New Year's goals.

The Adidas miCoach Pacer is a set of gadgets designed to coach a person through running workouts and keep track of progress with a sync feature to an Adidas' Web site to record data and offer advice.

The miCoach Pacer package, which for US$139.99 includes the miCoach Pacer device, a heart monitor and sensor that either fits inside certain Adidas running shoes or on the shoelaces of any kind of shoe, faces stiff competition against Nike, which promotes a similar sports package with Apple that work with iPod digital music players.

The idea behind both devices is to help people get more out of their workouts in terms of training data and coaching, while enjoying digital music. Adidas originally launched the miCoach system with a mobile phone from Samsung Electronics with a built-in digital music player a few years ago. That system was sold in Europe and not in the U.S.

The new miCoach Pacer package does not include a Samsung device nor do the companies work together to promote it in North America, Adidas representatives said.

The biggest difference between the Adidas and Nike+iPod systems is that the Adidas miCoach works with any digital music player and any kind of shoe, while Nike+iPod is designed exclusively for Nike shoes and iPods. The miCoach system also does not require the purchase of a digital music player. It can be used stand alone, but the miCoach Pacer will only coach during a workout, it won't play songs.

Both systems offer Web sites with exercise information, advice and systems to track workouts as well as other interactive features, such as ways to share music lists or let friends see your workout progress.

The miCoach system may have an advantage in languages, with 11 for narration on the Pacer, including American English, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Russian, as well as 14 languages on the miCoach Web site. It was unclear how many languages the Nike+iPod system supported, and Nike did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

There are certainly other systems to use for anyone who wants to keep track of their workouts. One system is an iPhone app called Runkeeper that works by using the GPS on the iPhone 3G or 3GS to track distance, time, speed, pace, calories burned, elevation, and path traveled. There's a free version of the app and a pro version you can pay for, as well as record keeping on the Runkeeper Web site.

GPS device maker Garmin also offers an exercise device to keep track of workouts, watches with-built in GPS, heart rate monitors and other capabilities.

The miCoach Pacer system, incidentally, can be used with the Garmin watches, according to an Adidas representative. Executives at the Adidas news conference also said future devices will include more athletic clothing with functions sewn into the fabric for heart monitoring and other functions.

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Dan Nystedt

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