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BlackBerry Invests in Healthcare IT Startup

BlackBerry has invested an undisclosed sum in the healthcare IT startup NantHealth in the hopes that the struggling handset maker can build a future in the medical field.

The companies announced the investment Tuesday, saying they'd collaborate on "the development of HIPAA and other government privacy certified, integrated clinical systems that transform the delivery of medical care."

NantHealth provides cloud-based IT to healthcare providers to power information sharing, patient monitoring, and bill payment. The company says it will embed its medical software in future BlackBerry devices. BlackBerry CEO John Chen says the handset maker in turn will embed BlackBerry's QNX operating system, already in some MRIs, in more medical devices.

He also plans to leverage BlackBerry's security platform to secure cloud-based networks for healthcare institutions and to enable the sharing of medical information between doctors and patients over BBM Protected, a secure communication platform currently in development.

Why this matters
BlackBerry has been struggling to maintain its relevance in the mobile industry. It has been weighing ditching its devices business and focusing on bolstering its enterprise business. Its investment in NantHealth is a good indication of its plans for the future.

Of course, healthcare is an industry that's attracting the interest of a lot of companies in the mobile industry, including wireless operators, device makers, and software developers. BlackBerry should have a leg up, given its focus on security, which is paramount in healthcare. But it may still have to convince those in the healthcare industry of its own health for the foreseeable future. (See Apigee Puts InsightsOne Acquisition to Work, Sprint Accelerator: Changing Carrier DNA, and AT&T Opens Up on Health .)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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nasimson 4/19/2014 | 2:11:27 AM
Re: Makes sense > Qwerty keybooard, simplicity, familiarity and security

Blacberry may offer all the four of the above. But people demanding the above are already in their 40s. Not their children. Just ten more years and then noone will be demanding the QWERTY keyboards. It will be like:

BlackBerry? My father had one.
Mitch Wagner 4/18/2014 | 4:27:31 PM
Re: Makes sense brookseven - "Worse than that, even if you wanted a separate phone for work - why would you choose a Blackberry?"

Consumers would not choose BlackBerry. Their IT departments would choose it for them. 
Mitch Wagner 4/18/2014 | 4:25:55 PM
Re: First good idea in years Kruz - If BlackBerry dumps its OS, what does that leave them with? They become yet another handset maker in a market where all the oxygen is being consumed by Apple and Samsung. 

BlackBerry can succeed by doing as we're seeing here -- find B2B niches and double down in them using their existing OS. 

BlackBerry needs to learn from Microsoft, which is just now apparently realizing that its monopoly days are behidn it, and it needs to find a place to coexist with several established players. BlackBerry still seems to think it can make a comeback and go toe to toe with Apple and Samsung. And that's just not going to happen. 
Sarah Thomas 4/18/2014 | 11:48:45 AM
Re: First good idea in years BlackBerry does still have $2.7 billion it can burn through trying...
Sarah Thomas 4/18/2014 | 11:47:28 AM
Re: Makes sense I don't think that's entirely true. There are still many people that want a qwerty keyboard. It's a niche play though, and whether a niche play is enough for BlackBerry is the question. I think not, but that doesn't mean qwerties are entirely dead. Ryan Seacrest is banking on reviving them at least.
Sarah Thomas 4/18/2014 | 11:45:40 AM
Re: Makes sense haha, yes that's one reason BlackBerry is more secure -- not worth the energy for hackers. But, whether it actually is more secure or not, there's still the perception that it is the best bet for security, I think. That's why many government workers still use it and probably a big reason it will be able to get a foothold in healthcare.
Kruz 4/17/2014 | 5:26:06 PM
Re: Makes sense People don't want keyboards anymore, touchscreen is the evolution that made keyboard history.

People simply want to see the maximum screen size possible without scarifying this to keyboards, especially when not engaging in an activity that requires continuous typing.
Kruz 4/17/2014 | 5:22:25 PM
Re: First good idea in years BB don't have the luxury, the expertise, nor the time to sit and develop their OS and bring it up to speed with the existing players. They certainly have interesting software suites they can customize the OS with and be different from the other Android devices (BBM for instance). And this is not far from reality: they currently are reaching out to Android by side loading apps but this is clearly not enough. BB10 has been enough in the market to prove it is a failure as it is not showing any sign of progress. On the contrary, market share is on the decline.

One could say the same about Microsoft, but the difference is that it can afford to try and learn as it has the cash to burn, the partnership and ecosystem to use, and it is showing a steady(though still low) progress.

BB should learn from Nokia's story, the dominant market leader for 14 years who refused to let go of its Symbian. It had a bad OS but still spent a lot of effort trying to make it better. And when that Symbian became actually good, it was 2 years too late and people had already moved.

There simply isn't room for another OS in the market at this level of the game.
brookseven 4/17/2014 | 3:24:23 PM
Re: Makes sense Qwerty keybooard, simplicity, familiarity and security


I will give you Qwerty Keyboard, but such a large percentage of smartphone users are already on IOS or Android that simplicity and familiarity seem to be a stretch.  Security maybe...if you mean BES functionality.  I am aware of no reason to believe that a BB handset is more secure than Android or IOS.  Unless you are saying that they are so unpopular that nobody even remembers how to hack them.  :)

Sarah Thomas 4/17/2014 | 2:43:59 PM
Re: Makes sense Worse than that, even if you wanted a separate phone for work - why would you choose a Blackberry?  -- Qwerty keybooard, simplicity, familiarity and security

I don't disagree, but those are the strengths it can play to in the enterprise. BES + iOS or Android may outweigh those benefits though. 
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