How Android devices can leapfrog the iPhone

I love my iPhone and it’s a great platform for delivering all kinds of applications. Just like the ad says, there is an app for everything (at least it seems like that). The bottleneck, however, is the AppStore and Apple’s stranglehold on the device. You can’t just re-purpose the device without jail-breaking. The iPhone is versatile, yet, constrained. If you look at the numbers published here on GigaOM, you can see the extent of iPhone’s market and its economy. Android or any other device has a lot of catching up to do.

However, I think there is opportunity here for Android to completely blindside Apple and make Android devices indispensable. Google can do that, not by courting consumers, but by collaborating with makers of complex software systems like HMSes (Hospital Management Systems).

A hospital is a complex system and a truly integrated solution is mind-boggling. It takes a lot of brain power to comprehend the enormity of implementing such a project at even a mid-size hospital. There are processes within processes and to top that everything is highly regulated. It’s a question of life or death. Literally.

The typical architecture of HISes (Hospital Information Systems) is client-server, mostly implemented in Java. Large established hospitals still run mainframes but the basic architecture is client-server. The textbook approach of modernizing such “legacy” systems is to go the web applications route with a heavy mix of web-services to make everything “service-oriented”. You would probably throw in lots of JSP (Java Server Pages) pages and expect them to run in a browser. So the browser becomes your client accessing the application functionality. Then, you sprinkle the campus with desktops running browsers and you have your setup.

My proposal is this. Instead of using $500 desktop based browser clients to access system functionality why not access the functionality from $200 Android devices? Heck, with bulk orders, these could even cost about $100. These devices will access the required functionality via Android apps. Just imagine what would happen if Google and McKesson were to collaborate. McKesson’s Paragon Community HIS can dole out app features via Android apps. Google could subsidize these devices and could reduce the overall implementation cost of the system. Granted not all application features can be appified. (I invented this word, if anyone patents it, you heard it first here). But I suspect most of the features can be. So instead of nurses or hospital staff needing to go back to their stations to access the system, they can whip out their Android devices, and perform their tasks right at the point of the service. No need to make entries on paper charts and then transfer them into the system back at the station. Just tap them into the device. Throw in a pico-projector into the device and you have the option of viewing the data on a large screen. Like, say, you want to view the blood glucose chart of a patient or the vital signs charts. The possibilities are endless.

So instead of trying to create web clients or thin desktop clients, makers of complex software systems should focus their effort on developing downloadable android apps of their applications’ functionality. And McKesson, if you are looking for someone to lead up such an effort, you know where to find me.

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About Ramesh Sringeri

Yet another chaos monkey. View all posts by Ramesh Sringeri

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