Apple, WWDC and Health
Next month I’ll be in London for one of the Monty Python reunion shows. In their 1983 movie, The Meaning of Life, Michael Palin played an condescending hospital manager who wanted to make sure everyone appreciated the machine that he had bought, the one “that goes ping”. The joke was based on the notion that hospitals-know-best and that technology was one way that healthcare can assert its power over patients.
31 years later and the iPhone in my pocket outstips any machine the hospital has that goes ping. For instance, the computers in my hospital run Windows XP Professional, an operating system from 2002. Meanwhile yesterday, Apple announced Health, an app that will come as standard in iOS 8, the next revision of Apple’s mobile iPhone/iPad operating system. It’s not the do-everything, life-saving app that some people will have been expecting, but it’s a subtle statement of intent and when taken into consideration with Apple’s announcement HomeKit and SDK extensibility yesterday, there’s a smart long game ahead.
Let’s break down what all that means:
Why is Apple buying Beats? Opinion #31247
(This post has nothing to do with medicine.)
I’m an Apple customer for many years. I’m also one of those fans who happily watches all the keynote presentations and follows the popular Apple news and rumour websites.
So like many, I was perplexed by the news that it seems Apple will be buying Beats for $3.2 billion in the next week or so. Why would they do that? Beats headphones are divisive in that you either think they are (a) a worthy expense which marks you out as a discerning audiophile and fashionista or (b) an idiot tax on people who put style over substance. Interestingly a lot of people also think (b) applies to Apple fanboys like me, and yet somehow it seems from the online discourse that Apple fans and Beats fans are mutually exclusive.
So why would Apple buy Beats?
Apple have been acquiring people with expertise in medical devices recently. The latest one is a specialist in pulse oximetry. What could it all mean..?
EDIT 1/2/14: More rumours of a “Healthbook” app being developed by Apple.
It is CES – the Consumer Electronics Show – this week in Las Vegas. It’s the week when gadget makers show what they have in store for 2014.
Gorilla Glass, the makers of the toughened, scratch-resistant glass found on iPhones, have announced a new version of their glass with an anti-microbial layer which lasts for the life of the screen.
Meanwhile, Apple, who almost never announce anything in advance, are rumoured to be working on a 12 inch iPad for professionals and business.
Are you ahead of me here..?
I have been thinking a lot about Google Glass since I first heard about it in 2012. In December, at the DotMed conference I had my photo taken by someone wearing Glass for the first time – they were in the Netherlands, and I was in Dublin, which made it more impressive.
I read this piece by Wired’s Mat Honen and the reaction to it by John Gruber and I wonder why Google Glass isn’t seen as a slam-dunk inevitable evolution of technology.
My excitement about Google Glass is as a clinician and the potential, low-cost solutions it could provide if used correctly. Mobile phones and latterly smart phones all had their initial success due to business/enterprise end users finding that the devices made their work easier. Clinicians have the opportunity to lead on this technology. I see myself writing a lot about Glass and other wearable tech in 2014.
The anxiety about whether Google Glass will thrive in the consumer market seems to rest on the social acceptablilty of people wearing camera-communicators on their face, rather than having them in their pocket.
Let’s think about that for a moment.
I can’t say I have predicted the future, but I have just read this article from TechCrunch (via @Doctor_V ) which discusses new Apple patents incorporating advanced biometric monitoring on its devices. Not dissimilar to what I spoke about on the blog a few days ago.
It’s amusing how quickly a technological behaviour can be learned and taken for granted.
I upgraded to an iPhone 5S when they came out (from a three year old iPhone 4). In case you don’t know, one of its key selling features is Touch ID. This is a fingerprint sensor built in to the home button, i.e. That solitary button that sits under the screen on every iPhone.
I have been an iPhone user since the start. Building Touch ID into the home button means that the button itself has changed for the first time since the original iPhone in 2007. It is now flat, instead of mildly concave; it doesn’t have a small rounded square printed on it; there’s now an imperceptible extra ring around the button; and it feels nicer.
But most importantly it is useful.