Monday, February 11, 2013

Being Difficult for the Sake of it: Making the case for a non-iPad tablet

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The Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro went on sale this past weekend and represents the first interesting player in the physician tablet landscape that does not have a giant apple on its back. Up until this point, the physician tablet scene has consisted of the iPad and a bunch of other background players. Kind of like thisthis or this.

The Windows Pro 8 is the second tablet of the Microsoft Surface brand, which first released the Surface Windows RT in October. While the first version was interesting, it did not have a clear value proposition for a physician over any other device on the market—except for improving your tablet-aided breakdancing. However, this new version has the potential to make the HCP tablet landscape at least a little bit spicier:    

  • It has a more natural/native keyboard: Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2012 revealed that one of the barriers to using a tablet during the workday is how difficult it is to type on it. This is a real problem, as these keyboard difficulties make tablets less efficient than desktops/laptops and create a ceiling in terms of the activities that physicians will consider performing on their tablet. The Microsoft Surface has a snap on keyboard which is a more native attachment than what other tablets boasts and could be a solution to this problem.
  • Same interface and OS as a PC: The previously released Surface RT tablet had the same interface as a Microsoft laptop but still had a different operating system.  The Surface Pro bridges that gap and operates with the same operating system that a PC laptop could have - Windows 8. This could streamline a number of issues surrounding EHR use on tablets; allowing for a much better user experience than what many physicians have been reporting when accessing their EHR via an iPad. Additionally, many of the Windows 8 desktops/laptops are incorporating a touchscreen interface, which could make this an even more seamless transition.       
  • Non-iPads still have a puncher’s chance at some market share: Data from last year indicated that while physician tablet adoption surged (and by tablet I pretty much mean iPad), the professional profile of tablets had not yet fully emerged. While this is probably just due to a steep learning curve for professional integration, it is also possible that the current tablets on the market have certain flaws/inefficiencies that could make them vulnerable to a new player on the market.

Just to be clear: Am I saying that the Microsoft Surface can dethrone the iPad as the go-to tablet among physicians? Nope, that seems very unlikely—at least not in the short-to-midterm. The Surface is a pretty expensive device (starting at $899) for starters and U.S. physicians tend to be very Apple-centric in their purchasing behavior.  However, the Surface could easily nab second place in the market by wooing a physician segment that is more interested in their digital practices being tablet-centered.   

Posted by James Avallone, Principal Analyst