What a tumultuous week in technology. Almost on the heels of the announcement that Google was buying Motorola, Hewlett-Packard announced the retirement of their recently released Touchpad tablet, as well as a potential strategic change in direction from consumer technology products to business software with the spin-off or sale of their computer division. It is no small shift when the largest computer supplier in the world states they are planning on exiting the hardware market. Things are changing and fast. The only company making boatloads of money on hardware and devices is Apple and with the upcoming release of the iPad 3 and the iPhone 5, one wonders if anyone has the capability to be a true competitor in the market. Apple is able to charge a premium because their tablet and smartphone devices have an almost cultish following as well as a slick user interface that has given the company an almost unassailable lead.
I was very disappointed at HP’s decision to discontinue the iPad after only seven weeks in the market. Despite less than stellar demand for the devices, the Touchpad received good reviews, although it was clear it was going to be an uphill battle to take on the iPad... and win. Strategically though, it looks like HP has made decisions that would not allow time for a second or third generation Touchpad to be developed along with a strong developer community. A quick decision to drop the price to $99 cleared out all available inventory literally within hours and the Touchpad is history. I suspect that in time, Touchpads will attract a core following who will swear by the features that made the device desirable.
So, what does this mean for EMRs and mobile computing? There is definitely no shortage of tablet competitors in the market. Sony is bringing out its devices later this year, Amazon is launching a tablet, and the market is sure to become more crowded and competitive within the next 12–18 months. Can any of these devices compete with the iPad? That remains to be seen.
I have been using a WiFi-enabled iPad 2 for the past few weeks. It is a pretty slick device; however, I still do not see it as a laptop replacement. What works well for me? Reading newspapers like the NY Times, magazines, and web-browsing (except for Flash-enabled websites). Watching videos on YouTube, viewing photos, and going through presentations at meetings. But I am not yet convinced that the iPad is the device of choice for EMRs. It is great for specific applications, but there is still a lack of flexibility in terms of data entry. I cannot quite put my finger on it (pun not intended), but the iPad just does not do it for me yet.
On August 17, softwareadvice.com published an article by the marketing director for an EHR vendor in the U.S. that relates the story of an experienced industry executive visiting his own physician who has moved to an iPad-based EMR. There are definitely advantages to the tablet computing platform; however, software design will be key. Usability is a significant limitation in terms of current applications and the potential for this mobile technology platform will undoubtedly grow.
Right now, in my opinion, I think we are just too early. There will be interesting times ahead.
What are your thoughts? Do you think a tablet like the iPad will be your device of choice, or are you happy using a laptop or desktop with your EMR? Where does the tablet fit in?
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