Apple tablet could herald a revolution in mobile healthcare

At the risk of sounding like a shill for Apple, tomorrow is a red-letter day for mobile healthcare. That's when the computer-maker is expected to unveil its long-awaited tablet computer, likely to be a cross between a MacBook in terms of power and an iPhone with its touch-screen functionality and ease of use. (Don't worry, I'm not a shill for Apple; I'm a PC and my smartphone is a BlackBerry. I do love my first-generation iPod nano, though, despite the fact that I filled up the 2-gigabyte hard drive long ago.)

As we reported two weeks ago, Apple was said to be testing a tablet prototype at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in preparation for a big push into healthcare. We get further news today from MSNBC that the product, as we had heard before, will be priced less than typical tablet PCs, and significantly lower than the healthcare-specific Mobile Clinical Assistant platform from Intel.

Tablet PCs have been around for several years, but still remain a niche product. They tend to cost more than a laptop and require a stylus for handwriting entry and clicking. The stylus used to be nearly ubiquitous on handheld devices--until the touch-screen iPhone came along and broke that mold. If, as expected, the Apple tablet is a touch-screen computer, we could see another revolution in the not-too-distant future.

As I said in my Jan. 12 piece about the Mac tablet, never underestimate the power of Apple's design. I shall reserve judgment until I hear how much battery life this new product has, but I have a feeling we're on the verge of something huge in healthcare. - Neil