Healthcare is a focus as BlackBerry 10 rollout continues

By Jonah Comstock
02:46 am
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blackberry Z10In the month since BlackBerry's global rollout of the Z10, the first smartphone running on its new operating system, began, BlackBerry has built a steady stream of hype about its daunting would-be comeback, with reports coming in that half of Canadian buyers and one third of purchasers in the UK are switching over from Apple or Android.

At HIMSS in New Orleans, Vice President for Global Sales Paul Lucier confirmed to MobiHealthNews that the new phone, which comes to the US on March 11th via T-Mobile USA, is showing strong sales so far, including a number of Apple and Android converts.

"We think it's an indication that there's fatigue out there and people are looking for something new," he said.

Lucier also confirmed some of what we speculated on last month -- that healthcare will be a strong focus for the company as it seeks to make its comeback.

"Healthcare's an area we want to focus, whether it's with tablet, smartphone, and also our software," he said. Although the new BlackBerry 1o operating system will run on the PlayBook, BlackBerry has not announced a new tablet as part of the launch -- just two smartphones, the touchscreen Z10 and keyboard-equipped Q10.

But Lucier said the operating system, like Windows 8, is form factor agnostic. Building on developments from the company QNX, which BlackBerry acquired a few years ago, the OS will run not just on smartphones and tablets, but also on all kinds of M2M systems. QNX was historically an embedded OS -- Lucier said many cars today actually run on QNX's operating system. Medical devices, like some used for remote surgical operators, also run on QNX. In the future, BlackBerry expects these devices and others to run BlackBerry 10 instead.

Lucier also said that going forward the company will be open to licensing its operating system to run on third party devices, like Microsoft does.

Speaking about the Z10 itself, Lucier highlighted security features like BlackBerry Balance that would make the BlackBerry stand out as a smartphone for health providers. Balance automatically partitions the smartphone, storing work and personal data separately and allowing each side to be remotely wiped or locked in isolation.

"On the enterprise side, Balance is going to be a huge factor," he said. "We have a trusted, secure model people are interested in and comfortable with. We get a lot of good feedback. We certainly want to ramp up the focus on healthcare, make sure we have a solid ecosystem built up around it. There's a lot of opportunities to get deeper into vertical strategies."

Healthcare and Government Solutions lead Sara Jost also mentioned that the company has a number of health apps among the 70,000 apps the device launched with, including medical reference apps like LexiCorp. The company is working with EMR vendors as well, she said, offering HTML5 access to several EMRs and working further with those companies to increase functionality.

The company's relatively small presence at HIMSS didn't trumpet a huge focus on healthcare, but if the company's rollout continues -- including new announcements in the M2M space -- it will be interesting to see how the BlackBerry booth at HIMSS looks next year.

MobiHealthNews coverage of the HIMSS13 event in New Orleans is sponsored by AirStrip Technologies.

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