Can Microsoft, others, weaken Apple's grip on the healthcare tablet market?

Between last month's announcement that Microsoft is preparing for the launch of its Surface tablet and Fujitsu's announcement yesterday of the release of its Stylistic Q702 tablet, it seems as if the tablet wars are entering a new era. How it all plays out in the healthcare industry will be interesting to watch.

Currently, Apple's iPad reigns as the tablet supreme in the healthcare universe. A report from Manhattan Research released in May found that tablet use by physicians has grown more than 75 percent in the past year, and that 62 percent of doctors are using tablets; a lot of that growth likely was due to the iPad's popularity. Mass tablet rollouts--whether by hospital systems or government agencies--much of the time appear to use the iPad (or at least turn to Apple first).

Microsoft's Surface, however, appears to be gaining a pre-release reputation as good for health professionals. ZDNet's James Kendrick called the Surface "a natural fit for healthcare" in a recent post.

"I suspect in a year or two we might see a lot of Surface tablets when we visit the doctor," Kendrick said. "All day battery life and a computer that is easy to carry for extended periods of time. Throw Windows into the mix and it's almost perfect."

Iltifat Husain, M.D. of was also optimistic about the potential of the Surface. In a recent blog post, he listed several reasons why doctors might want to use the Microsoft offering, including its built-in keyboard that doubles as a case; its stylus pen with hand block; and its USB 2.0, HDMI and MicroSD ports.

"The Surface has the opportunity to be relevant in the hospital space, and my fellow doctors can stop being scared now," Husain wrote. "Personally, I can't wait to try one out."

Chilmark Research analyst John Moore, however, was slightly less excited.

"I believe Microsoft will cede the healthcare sector to Apple," he told eWeek, citing a lack of native mobile apps for devices running a Microsoft operating system.

Fujitsu's new tablet, meanwhile, is being billed as a "convertible tablet PC" geared specifically toward users in vertical markets like healthcare and education.

"A lot of what we do is based on the usage patterns of our customers and we enhance our products as we move on, based on how they use them," Paul Moore, vice president of PC product marketing and product management at Fujitsu America, told CRN. He adds that the Surface, by comparison, appears to be more consumer-oriented.

"We focus on verticals, and we have been doing this for 20 years now," he said. "[W]e've been doing this longer than Microsoft has been doing it."

To learn more:
- here's the ZDNet post
- read the post
- check out this eWeek post
- here's the CRN post
- check out the Fujitsu announcement