Nautilus Boosts product lineup

Fitness equipment maker goes small with bracelet that tracks exercise goals

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

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Nautilus Inc. is making its first foray into a much smaller and cheaper fitness product: a bracelet that tracks its wearer's exercise goals, calorie burning and even sleep.

The Bowflex Boost was unveiled publicly during the company's quarterly earning conference call to investors on Monday by Bill McMahon, Nautilus' chief operating officer. It is part of a strategic effort to offer a broader range of health-related products to consumers, said Bruce Cazenave, Nautilus CEO, in an earlier, then-embargoed interview.

The wrist band is also the latest entry into a burgeoning activity-tracking marketplace. Nike's FuelBand (at $150), the Jawbone Up bracelet ($130) and Fitbit's Flex Band ($100) are the leading fitness bracelets, New York Times technology columnist David Pogue wrote in a recent round-up.

Like the Boost, these devices typically act like pedometers on steroids — measuring how many steps a person takes, but also calculating the distance traveled and calories burned. In general, owners can download information from the bracelets to track progress over time.

Nautilus' offering mixes and matches features offered by its competition. Similar to the Flex, the Bowflex Boost wirelessly transmits the information it gathers to newer iPhones via Bluetooth signals (an Android phone app is still in development for the Boost). Like both the Up and the Flex Band, the Boost tracks how much time its wearer spends asleep. And also like the Flex, the Boost lights up to show how well its wearer is doing at reaching his or her exercise goal for the day.

Nautilus may be new to an already-established marketplace, but Cazenave believes the Boost's price tag will give his company's product an edge.

"Some of the things ours does might be similar to what other people are doing," Cazanave said. "The difference is that ours is going to be very, very affordable. Some of these products are well north of $100. Ours will be at a $50 price point.

"That's going to open some eyes and ears, and lead to 'I need to take a look at this,'" Cazanave said. "Then it becomes affordable for a wide variety of people, some who are already fit, others looking to get off the couch."

"Bowflex" might seem like a strange name to attach to an inexpensive bracelet. Historically, that's the brand Nautilus has used to identify its line of home gym machines, which can cost upwards of $2,000 and rarely sell for less than $500.

But Bowflex also has the strongest name recognition among Nautilus' brands, and is one of the most established fitness brands in the country, Cazenave said. Now the company is working actively to expand the range of products dubbed with the label. Earlier this month, Nautilus launched bowflexinsider.com, a website that seeks to expand the Bowflex brand beyond exercise machines, to include a focus on healthy living and lifestyle choices.

Offering products for far less than the established Bowflex price points is also an acknowledgement of today's financial realities.

"During tough economic times, we realized there were product opportunities below $500 that we weren't addressing," Cazenave said. "You will still see products coming from us that are more than $1,000. We aren't abandoning that. But we thought we needed to complement it with lower- priced products, to get to people who may not want to take out a loan, which many people do when you have higher-priced products."