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Tablets: Now Things Are Getting Interesting

August 24, 2010
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According to a report in Bloomberg News online last week, the Waterloo, Ontario-based firm Research In Motion (RIM), which is racing to introduce a tablet to rival Apple's iPad, is not going to run that new tablet on the BlackBerry OS. Instead, RIM is turning to technology used in BMW audio systems and in the U.S. Army's Crusher tank. The still-to-be-announced tablet will run on software developed by QNX Software Systems, which RIM acquired from Harman International Industries Inc. in April. QNX software fuels products produced by Cisco Systems, GE, and Caterpillar. At first blush (and even and second and third blushes), the decision to run this new tablet on a system other than the BlackBerry OS makes tremendous sense. Not only have there been occasional downtime issues with BlackBerry (as everyone knows); the decision to go to a newer platform will probably also position the new tablet more optimally, both technologically and marketing-wise. Of course, until the new tablet makes its debut, no one will know whether it might prove to be a serious rival to the iPad. But, despite Steve Jobs' amazing ability to attract massively global attention whenever he makes a move, I'm hoping that RIM's new "BlackPad" tablet will make some splash, and begin to open up this new tablet market a bit. It wouldn't be a healthy situation if the iPad stayed market-dominant for too long; we need the kind of elbow-to-elbow competition that will create ongoing ferment and innovation in this tech area, and that will benefit end-users in healthcare, particularly physicians, nurses, and other clinicians, who are already flocking to the iPad for numerous good reasons (as well as, of course, because everyone else is flocking to it). And I believe that the introduction of multiple excellent tablets into healthcare should spur application innovation as well. Of course, I could be wrong and this could prove to be another cause for headaches for CIOs, as they have to move to accommodate multiple technologies, always a challenge from the standpoint of budgeting and support-staffing. I do hope I'm right, though, of course--and that the on-Apple's-heels introduction of a strong rival in the lightweight tablet market will prove a positive development for everyone, in healthcare and beyond.

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