Apple Reportedly Interested In Medical Device Market, But Will It Need Partners?

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Apple, in its search for new game-changing products, is looking at getting into medical devices and also has held talks with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, according to a recent report from the San Francisco Chronicle.

While iPads are prevalent in hospitals all over the world, and are sometimes even used in surgeries, medical devices would be a new front for Apple. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Apple is interested in sensor technology that can help predict heart attacks by tracking the sound blood makes as it's coursing through arteries.

The report has no doubt attracted the attention of health-care solution providers that are integrating iPads into health-care IT systems and would like to expand the scope of their relationship with Apple. There certainly would be no shortage of interest given the size of the opportunity in the medical device space.

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"We see a large number of companies already using Apple products in the medical field for various business use cases, so I think it would be a natural progression, and the current partners in the space can continue to be utilized for services," Marco Nielsen, vice president of services at Enterprise Mobile, a Plano, Texas-based mobile device management vendor that works with Apple, told CRN.

The question is, what sort of role would Apple permit partners to play here? There's little reason to believe that Apple would open the door to partners it hasn't already vetted and isn't already working with.

Michael Oh, founder and president of Boston-based Apple reseller Tech Superpowers, thinks it would be a "huge leap" for Apple to get into the medical device market. But if it does, the devices likely would have a software component, which could potentially create opportunities for partner-delivered maintenance and support services, he said.

As is the case with large enterprise iPhone and iPad deals, Apple likely would choose to work with a select group of partners to cover the massive market opportunity that medical devices represent, partners told CRN.

In 2011, Apple hired highly regarded Microsoft channel executive Francois Daumard to build a channel to deliver iPad and iPhone integration services. But Daumard left last year, and Apple doesn't appear to have replaced him. Apple, Cupertino, Calif., couldn't be reached for comment.

Mike Hogan, CEO of Hogan Consulting Group, a Chesterton, Ind.-based solution provider, doesn't think Apple would need a channel to be successful in medical devices.

"The model they would probably follow would be that of pharmaceutical companies or EMR software," Hogan told CRN. "They would be selling directly to doctors or hospitals, so a strong channel would not really be necessary for them."

Apple could use a similar model as IT vendors McKesson and Epic, which use a limited sales staff to cover specific accounts and let partners handle all of the integration work, Hogan said.

Apple has a huge footprint in education, but to achieve a similar position in health care almost certainly would require help from some industry partners. As for what sorts of partners these end up being, and how many of them Apple might choose to work with, we'll have to wait and see.



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