Tired of iPhone hype? Well, the Palm Pre cometh.

By Brian Dolan
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Brian DolanFor every iPhone skeptic I've met in the health industry (these are the types that like to stake the fate of wireless health on the "not everyone has an iPhone" argument), I've met at least two execs at big companies that pinpoint the launch of the 3G iPhone last year as the tipping point for their company's decision to explore wireless health. So, hype or not, it's inspired this industry.

Ever since the 3G version of the device launched at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference last June, a chorus of medical industry voices have called out: "What's our mobile strategy?"

Of course, June is nearly upon us again, but this June will bring much more than an updated iPhone 3.0 with support for Bluetooth-enabled medical peripheral devices, like Johnson & Johnson's LifeScan glucometer. Next month will also herald the launch of the Palm Pre, by many accounts, the first true contender to Apple's iPhone. What's more, Palm is a longtime friend to the medical industry. Doctors have depended on Palm's software and PDAs throughout the early years of mHealth.

The Palm Pre will launch on the Sprint network on June 6. Just two days before Apple's World Wide Developers Conference. Pure coincidence, right?

So, is it worth jumping off the iPhone bandwagon to try out the Pre?

Depends on what you're looking for, but the Palmdoc Chronicles blog has done a nice job of sussing out the differences between iPhone 3.0 and Palm Pre with an eye on how doctors might decide between the two. The number of physicians using iPhone doubled between 2008 and 2009. Could the Pre stem the phone's rising popularity? Here's a few ways TPC suggested Palm Pre might court doctors better:

1) Offer a true local desktop sync solution so doctors can access their desktop files while on-the-go.
2) Work with key partners in the medical software publishing business to entice them to port their applications to WebOS. (i.e. Epocrates, Skyscape, USBMIS, Unbound, Uptodate, Lexi and others.)
3) Get the Palm Pre out early to physician advocates.
4) Certify as many legacy medical apps as possible -- make sure that the classic Palm applications for the medical community will work on the Palm Pre through a simulator, if necessary.

Here's The Palmdoc Chronicle's take on what the iPhone lacks when compared to the Palm Pre:

1) Lack of a physical keyboard.
2) Lack of multi-tasking. The Palm Pre/WebOS may prove to be the best multi-tasking phone to date.
3) No emulator for Garnet/PalmOS. As a result, many legacy medical Palm apps cannot run on the iPhone.

While doctors have a number of concerns, the Palm Pre's over-arching success will likely be determined by how well it attracts developers to the platform -- why go with Pre if 37 million iPhones and iTouches have been sold worldwide. What's to motivate a developer looking to enter the wireless health or medical industry to code for the Pre over iPhone, which already supports more than 1,500 health, fitness and medical applications?

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