Will an Android or iPad platform dominate hospitals?

Felasfa Wodajo, MD has written a post for iMedicalApps on the iPad’s future role in healthcare institutions. The title says it all: Why Locked Android Tablets Will Beat the iPad for Hospital Use.

The gist of his argument is that Android’s “openness” and hardware-agnosticism will make it more ubiiquitous in the market in general, and a more robust and affordable platform for use in hospitals.

With dozens of new manufacturers rushing into the tablet market in 2011 … the market dominance of the iPad will clearly diminish.

Although he doesn’t say so in as many words, it is clear that Wodajo perceives the battle between iPad/iOS against Android tablets through the lens of the old Mac versus Wintel story. The reality is that Apple is in a very different position with iOS and the iPad then they were with the Mac. Apple’s competitors simply can’t match the iPad’s price without sacrificing crucial features like battery life, screen size, or build quality. No one has come close to matching the $499 iPad’s specs without costing several hundred dollars more, and that was before the iPad 2 was announced. If anything, the market dominance of the iPad will clearly increase in 2011.

Vendors favor standardized application and hardware deployments for security and ease of maintenance.

Of course they do, and iOS 4 and Apple’s enterprise tools make it easy for small teams to manage hundreds of iPads. Device profiles can be remotely installed and updated. Apps can be distributed wirelessly, bypassing the App Store entirely. iOS 4 also supports commonplace IT standards like VPN networking and Microsoft Exchange.

Vendors can customize the Android operating system.

I don’t see why this is relevant. Between native apps and web-based applications, what else is there worth customizing? The iPad supports networking standards like VPN, and its security features for passcode protection and remote wiping already meet government standards for mobile healthcare devices.

Paid app downloads will continue to diminish as a source of revenue, as real value shifts to connectivity with other apps and demonstrating cost savings.

Continue to diminish? This is not only irrelevant, it’s also dead wrong. There are somewhere around 500,000 apps in the iOS App Store, with thousands more being added each month. Apple has deposited collectively over 2 billion dollars into developers’ bank accounts since the App Store launched, with most of that money having been earned in the past year.

The devices will have the apps preloaded and the operating system will have been modified so as not to allow any other user interactions or access to the Android Market.

One wonders if Wodajo has even touched an iPad. The ability to download or delete apps can be disabled with only a few taps. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, device profiles with preloaded apps and user restrictions can be distributed wirelessly.

Apple is a hardware company and not terribly interested in commodity hardware and low-margin enterprise pricing.

While it is true that Apple doesn’t deal in commodity hardware, they have made it clear publicly that they plan to price the iPad aggressively. The iPad 2, for example, retains the $499 entry price of its predecessor, but with twice the speed, more RAM, dual-cameras, and a sleeker design. There are simply no comparable alternatives on a feature-by-feature basis at that price point.

Wodajo also overlooks one key fact that I think will drive the iPad’s entry into the healthcare space: the tide of technology adoption has shifted from the enterprise to the consumer space. It used to be the case that new technology began at the enterprise level and then trickled down slowly into the consumer space. Consumers are now the early adopters. Smart mobile devices are changing people’s personal lives. There is a growing expectation among consumers that they be able to use their smartphones and iPads at work.

Doctors in particular love the iPad. Anecdotal evidence abounds. The folks at my local Apple Store tell me that around one fifth of the customers looking to buy an iPad are physicians. I see iPads frequently at my hospital. A friend in my hospital’s IT department takes calls every day from doctors saying, “I just bought this iPad now please make it work with Cerner!”

Jared Sinclair is an ICU nurse who blogs at jaredsinclair + com.

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