The more the merrier for mHealth innovation

There's a saying "better late than never" that aptly applies to the foray this past week of three big tech players into the mobile healthcare realm: Microsoft, Lenovo and HP.

Microsoft launched its Health platform, smartwatch band and Health app. It's a move long in coming since earlier this year when the software giant announced its Bing Health & Fitness Windows Phone app.

Lenovo very quietly announced its new fitness wristband tracker, called the Smartband SW-B100, by just plopping it up on its website.

And HP jumped into the pool with more of a splash with an only-for-men smart watch, the MB Chronowing, that's being touted more for its stylish look than its health attributes. (The MB stands for fashion design Michael Bastion).

While the three titans are debuting wearables and related technologies long after some big competitors (Samsung, Apple, Google etc.) and are, by clear accounts, pretty late to the mHealth party, their late arrival shouldn't dampen or cloud the importance of their respective strategies.

Why? Well for the obvious reason that competition always drives better and more creative advancements. Then there's the other very obvious reason: we're really still in the infancy stage of mHealth technology, especially in the aspect of consumer adoption and even medical professional adoption. The Microsoft, Lenovo and HP participation will only help change that scenario.

As a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report notes, true adoption will only come when device makers offer affordable solutions that provide greater value than what's on the market today. The report notes that social media strategies for health wearables must be engaging, interoperable and intelligent to attain success.

So who better to drive interoperability, intelligent apps and capabilities and has the consumer reach to engage consumers, both users and providers, than tech names most everyone is familiar with in the computing landscape?

The PwC research reveals strong consumer interest given that 80 percent of respondents feel mHealth wearables can make healthcare more convenient and foster a healthier lifestyle. However, they don't want to pay an exorbitant amount of money and market competition will ensure that devices become cheaper. 

More vendors in market means the big hurdles around data security and protection, and individual privacy concerns, will be solved quicker. More players striving to grab traction means more features, enhanced functionality, improved ease of use. It's just a proven given the track record of innovation every industry, from car making to TV manufacturing to computing.

Right now, according to PwC, just 20 percent of American adults own a wearable, and one in 10 uses it every day. Of those who bought a device over a year ago, 33 percent are no longer using the device.

That scenario will be quite different within just the next year, I believe, as consumers become more educated, devices become more affordable and the increasing number of players in the market begin carving out specific products for specific user populations. Not everyone has an iPhone, not everyone is interested in heart rate monitoring, and not everyone wants others to know their "watch" is actually helping them track their diabetic condition.

So it's encouraging to see tech titans, and hopefully dozens of start-ups, coming into mHealth technology. There is very little downside to the scenario. And how often do we get to say that when it comes to new technology?

- Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)