Zwift has just surprised everyone and no one at all by posting 7 new job listings for a new division named “Fitness Tech”, located in Surrey, England.
What is this new Fitness Tech division? Here’s what the job listings say:
Fit-Tech will consist of high calibre, experienced individuals rolling up to the CEO through the Director for Engineering and the VP Fitness Technologies. The division will form a new P&L within the business and will focus on topics of high strategic importance to Zwift and Zwift eSports, in particular developing new products that improve or enhance the overall Zwift offering. Fit Tech consists of 3 main divisions, of which Engineering is the largest, the others being Programme Management and Product Management.
The language is rather vague, but here’s the first clue: “…focus on topics of high strategic importance to Zwift and Zwift eSports, in particular developing new products that improve or enhance the overall Zwift offering.”
The next clue comes in looking at the job listings themselves, which are clearly laying out requirements for team members who can reverse engineer, design, and manage the production of hardware. (DC Rainmaker has a more detailed breakdown of the job descriptions, so I won’t rehash them here.)
That’s right. Fit-Tech is Zwift’s new hardware division. It’s not just a game anymore.
What Are They Building?
We already know Zwift licensed some of the intellectual property of smart bike maker VirtuPro. But that deal seems has soured, with lawsuits ongoing.
We also know Zwift has worked directly with at least one trainer manufacturer to develop a Zwift-branded direct-drive trainer, but that deal didn’t come to fruition either (although some of you are riding that very trainer today).
So what will the Fit-Tech team be working on in Surrey?
My best guess: hardware that makes Zwifting easier.
Zwift’s leadership has been paying a lot of attention to Peloton’s approach: selling a single, simple unit that gets people on the platform. Yes, this approach isn’t for everyone–but there are many cyclists willing to pay a premium for a hassle-free experience. The customers are there, but the solution is not. Only Zwift can provide that solution.
It’s a solution that will integrate the hardware and software sides of Zwift: a smart bike with a built-in screen is the most logical guess. An idiot-proof trainer which connects reliably while requiring no calibration (or a simple in-game calibration) would be a good second guess.
There’s also this section in a Zwift statement quoted by DC Rainmaker:
“With the first UCI Cycling Esports World Championships taking place next year, we at Zwift need to ensure we take on the responsibility of certifying trainers for esports competition at the highest level – where world titles and prize money is on the line. This certification process will be a key responsibility for the department.”
So Fit-Tech isn’t just about developing new hardware–they will also be taking apart existing trainers and testing them for certification. This is good news for Zwifters, who will have one more source of information when looking to decide which trainers perform at the highest level.
What About the Bugs?
Some Zwifters are already complaining: “I’d rather see Zwift fix some of the game’s bugs instead of building trainers!” Here’s the thing: we’re talking about a company with ~300 employees. It is quite possible that some of those employees can work on one project, while other employees work on another. Zwift is not one person, working on one thing.
In fact, the move to hardware may just make the Zwift experience better for everyone–because as the Fit-Tech division develops and tests new devices, they’ll discover Zwift bugs that need to be fixed for the device to work optimally. They may also develop some new hardware tech which helps the trainer work better with Zwift software, and perhaps that tech will find its way into non-Zwift trainers.
What About Non-Zwift Hardware?
Zwifter are also asking: how long until Zwift only allows Zwift trainers on their platform?
I’ll go on record here and say Zwift will never move to a model where only their hardware is supported. It makes no sense, when their entire subscriber base is on non-Zwift trainers. It would torpedo their business overnight.
And it isn’t just me saying this: Zwift leadership says the same thing.
Additionally, allowing third-party hardware on the platform encourages continued innovation, so advances in hardware don’t fall on the shoulders of a small team in Surrey.
Zwift’s Official Statement
I reached out to Zwift, and they sent me the same official statement they sent over to DC Rainmaker. Here it is:
While Zwift’s Fitness Technology division is a new addition to the business, this news will come as a surprise to few in the industry and the picture has more depth than manufacturing our own hardware.
First up, as we have always sought to do, we will continue to work closely with hardware partners to deliver business growth, new innovations for cyclists, runners and triathletes, and create a more immersive and better value consumer experience. As the industry leader in indoor training, Zwift remains fully committed to growing the market for industry hardware sales.
This vision of better integration between partner hardware and Zwift software aligns with our ambition for Esports. With the first UCI Cycling Esports World Championships taking place next year, we at Zwift need to ensure we take on the responsibility of certifying trainers for esports competition at the highest level – where world titles and prize money is on the line. This certification process will be a key responsibility for the department.
We know it is no easy task to create hardware. Our industry partners have years of trusted experience and our priorities as a business will continue to centre around our core business as a software platform.
It’s too early for us to disclose any more detail, or to provide any indications on timings at this point but, as ever, we look forward to what the future holds.”
It’s exciting times in the world of Zwift, for sure. The company is taking big steps to ensure continued dominance in their market. This Fit-Tech move isn’t going to produce new hardware anytime soon, but a couple years down the road we may see some (literally) game-changing products. Zwift’s leadership is looking ahead.
What do you think about Zwift making big moves into the hardware business? What will they be working on? Share your thoughts below.