The iPhone Is A High-Priced Commodity The iPhone is little more than a high-priced commodity at this juncture. There is little differentiation between it and lower cost alternatives (OnePlus for example) both from a design and feature functionality standpoint. However, with 2 billion-plus devices in circulation, Apple’s future does not rest exclusively with new device…
Apple no longer innovates. Look no further than its cash cow iPhone. Prior to the iPhone’s initial launch in January 2007, Motorola, Blackberry and Nokia ruled the mobile phone universe. Today, rather than driving innovation, rather than striving to leapfrog the competition, Apple is content to play a feature/functionality cat and mouse game with Samsung,…
Everyone Wants Their 15 Minutes of Fame
It’s a primary reason why Instagram “Stories” are so popular. That and the feature’s ease-of-use. Instagram has created an engaging, almost frictionless user experience that enables anyone to vlog their life in a series of micro videos with a 24-hour shelf life – i.e “Stories”. Stories is the platform feature that single-handedly kneecapped Snap before its March 2017 IPO (we reviewed in our piece about CEO overreach). We covered the “Stories” topic in episodes 58 and 67 of our CEORater Podcast.
Snap recently countered by opening its Stories feature to platforms outside of snapchat whereas Instagram remains within Facebook’s walled garden. Were the two platforms equal, Snap’s counter move likely would have provided an advantage. However, the two platforms are not equal. Instagram continues to enjoy the ease-of-use advantage over snapchat (a powerful advantage) and Facebook’s walled garden is an expansive one with 2 billion-plus monthly active users (“MAUs”).
Mobile Devices that Best Leverage Social Media Platforms Will Win
The “Stories” feature matters not only for social media companies but also for mobile phone OEMs as consumers increasingly record and consume mobile video. Therefore, mobile phone camera features, in-phone storage (external storage devices add friction to the user experience) and battery life will increasingly matter.
Here’s a look at four mobile phones across attributes:
Platform Cloud Vendors Also Win
Facebook stores Instagram videos. Google stores Snap’s content. Expect cloud service leader AWS (Netflix on AWS) to make its mark as companies that were built on top of AWS roll out video content (Amazon/Open Tube?)
The mobile video phenomenon extends beyond user-generated content to professional content. For example, Steven Soderbergh’s forthcoming theatrical feature – “UNSANE” – was recorded entirely on an iPhone.
We published CEORater Podcast episode 120 subsequent to posting this article.
Welcome to Apple Health
Apple recently announced that this spring it will release an update to its iOS for iPhones and iPads that will include a new “Health Records” feature that will provide access to personal medical records covering allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals. Given the ubiquity of the iPhone we believe that Apple is well-positioned to succeed where others – most notably Microsoft and Google – have failed. Listen to our recent podcast on the subject:
Tower of Babel
The Healthcare IT industry suffers from data fragmentation. Some healthcare providers store medical records using difficult to account for paper-based filing systems. Forward-thinking healthcare providers leverage Electronic Medical Records (“EMR”) which are an improvement over paper-based records yet are far from perfect. EMR products from different vendors don’t talk to one another and it’s common for different software versions from the same vendor to experience less than perfect communication. A lack of standards typically creates friction in any technology process and healthcare IT is no different.
EMR software is used by healthcare professionals at small, mid-sized and large medical practices/ healthcare providers to replace inefficient paper-based medical records. EMRs are required to store patient/consumer data in compliance with HIPAA.
How to Achieve EMR Nirvana
Step 1.) Universal Adoption of Secure EMRs: All electronic medical records are required to be stored in a secure-HIPAA-compliant format. This includes text-based, image-based and video-based health records. I considered breaking out “security” as its own “step” given that many CEOs and Boards are slow to address CyberSecurity (see our many CEORater Podcasts and TEK2day.com writings that cover CyberSecurity). No industry is more at risk of CyberBreaches than healthcare given the vast stores of sensitive Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”). We’ve frequently communicated about CyberSecurity and have been a vocal critic of Equifax and “sleepy” CEOs and Boards in the aftermath of Equifax’s 2017 CyberBreach (discovered in July 2017, disclosed in September 2017). I ultimately decided against breaking out CyberSecurity as a separate step given that it must become a way of life, embedded in every workflow, implicit in every operational process. That said, the EMR should become the single version of the truth replacing paper-based medical records.
Step 2.) EMRs On-Demand: EMR data elements must be searchable and readily accessible by any authorized person any time, anywhere in a HIPAA-compliant manner across platforms (zero friction goal). This is true both at the point of care and outside the point of care. One such example outside the point of care would be the application of advanced analytics across millions (if not billions) of anonymous personal medical records – only of course when patients/consumers elect to share their anonymous information. For example, if everyone who owns an iPhone volunteered certain anonymous health record elements to Apple it is not unreasonable to expect that Apple could move society steps closer to personalized healthcare by way of machine learning analytics at massive scale. For our money the world’s most valuable company over the next 100 years will be the company that cracks the code to personalized healthcare/medicine. But I digress..
Step 3.) Portability: EMRs must be portable. For example, if I take a job with a new employer that moves me from Dallas TX to Seattle WA a great deal of friction is eliminated from my move process if my complete EMR is readily accessible from one location that I control (iPhone).
M&A as a Catalyst
Apple could accelerate its Health initiative with one of several Healthcare IT acquisitions. We would focus on the EMR segment. Acquiring an EMR vendor would enable Apple to tightly integrate its Health App with EMRs to a greater degree than would be possible through EMR partnerships. Cerner and Epic are the leading EMR software vendors – each with a long history and vast domain expertise. Cerner recently recruited a new CEO – Brent Shafer – after the untimely passing of its former founder and CEO Neal Patterson. Epic continues to be led by its founder and CEO Judith Faulkner. Were we to advise Apple from an M&A perspective we would focus on Cerner (tkr: CERN) and Epic (private) with athenahealth (tkr: ATHN) as the alternate.
- athenahealth: Boston-based athenahealth is led by its founder and CEO – Jonathan Bush – cousin to former President George W. Bush. Jon Bush is an entrepreneurial dynamo and in the event of an acquisition would be unlikely to stay beyond the negotiated earn-out period. In addition, ATHN has recently experienced senior-level turnover. Therefore, it would be essential that Apple gain comfort with the key senior leadership team members before executing an acquisition of athenahealth.
- Epic: Judith Faulkner founded Epic in 1979 and doesn’t have to deal with the turnover that is typical in San Francisco, New York and Boston. The firm is culturally stable.
- Cerner: enjoys similar cultural stability. New CEO Brent Shafer comes from Philips North America where he was CEO since February 2014. Co-founder and former interim CEO Cliff Illig remains a significant CERN shareholder.
“Consumerization” of Healthcare
We believe that if the iPhone becomes the preferred EMR access point the patient/consumer will be empowered at the expense of:
- Healthcare Providers: will have less customer lock-in as a result of portability/ reduced friction associated with changing providers. Many healthcare providers will gravitate toward transparency (i.e. publish pricing if they feel they are price competitive) in an effort to capture business. Major hospital systems are already losing share to neighborhood providers and urgent care centers. We expect this pressure on the large hospital systems to continue (see our earlier post on the healthcare industry).
- Health Insurers: will continue to face economic pressure. The perverse government subsidization of various components of the healthcare system makes it impossible to have true price discovery and to establish a real healthcare market.
More Fodder for Apple Pay
- Apple Pay and Apple Insurance? Should Apple Health effectively execute its strategy of becoming the preferred medical record access point it will be the connective tissue between consumers and healthcare providers. This will afford Apple the opportunity to monetize this symbiotic relationship by way of facilitating payments and/or offering its own brand of healthcare insurance – perhaps offering pay-as-you-go and peer-to-peer insurance models. Time will tell.
Healthcare IT Vendors
Partial List of Healthcare IT vendors sorted by Run Rate revenue. The “Run Rate” figure for each company was derived by multiplying the “Most Recent Reported Q” or “MRRQ” revenue figure for each company by “4” unless otherwise noted. For example, GE’s MRRQ revenue figure of $5,402 x 4 = Run Rate revenue of $21,608. Note that rounding may impact certain of the Run Rate revenue figures.
As printed in the WSJ: “Apple Inc. departed from its traditional preview strategy for what it bills as its most important new iPhone in years, prioritizing early access to the iPhone X for YouTube personalities and celebrities over most technology columnists who traditionally review its new products.
Apple provided the iPhone X to a small number of traditional testers for about a week, while limiting most others, The Wall Street Journal included, to a single day with the device before reviews could be published. About a half-dozen personalities on Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube video service were granted time with the device before its release.
The company seeded the iPhone X to at least three influencers with different audiences: actor Mindy Kaling, who shared her thoughts with Glamour; 12-year-old developer Alex Knoll, who showed off the device on Ellen DeGeneres’s television show; and political journalist Mike Allen, who included insights from his tech-savvy nephew in Axios’s morning newsletter.
In the U.S., BuzzFeed, TechCrunch and Mashable were given a week with the iPhone X, as were the Telegraph and the Independent in the United Kingdom. The device also was given for a week to outlets in Japan, China, Australia and other countries. Steven Levy, among the handful of people to test the first-ever iPhone, spent a week with the iPhone X and posted his “first look” impressions on Backchannel, part of Wired Media Group, a day before most other publications..
The change in strategy meant the iPhone X, which hits stores Friday, got less testing than most of its predecessors before reviews could be published. The handful of reviewers that received the device for a week largely praised its full-screen display, facial-recognition system and smaller physical size. Removing the physical home button meant people would have to adjust to how they operated the device, they said.
Crash reviewers largely echoed those sentiments, adding the caveat that they could discover issues after they spend more time with the device. Most pledged full reviews for later in the week.
The review strategy is “unusual,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. “It’s possible Apple wanted some reviews out early and those would be the more enthusiastic ones.”
He said YouTube reviewers tend to be more positive when given early access to devices, and that most reviews aren’t overly negative.
“Unless Apple felt like there would be some bad elements in the reviews, why would you hold back?” Mr. Dawson asked. “Why would you be selective about who gets it first?
The unusual approach comes in an iPhone release year marked by anomalies. For the first time, Apple released a trio of new handsets at its big fall launch event—the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X. It also increased prices on its suite of new phones and staggered the launch with the iPhone 8 hitting stores Sept. 22 and the iPhone X hitting stores six weeks later.
The iPhone X arguably is the most important iPhone in a decade. Apple billed the device the smartphone of the future, and investor anticipation of strong sales has helped send the company’s stock up more than 45%. Its success has taken on increasing importance amid lackluster sales for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.
At $999, the iPhone X is the highest-priced major smartphone ever. It is expected to be in limited supply after production issues over the summer delayed manufacturing by at least a month. Advanced preorders began last week, and early demand quickly pushed shipment times for the device to five to six weeks from the day of an order—more than double the wait for last year’s iPhone 7.”
I don’t anticipate writing a review of the iPhone X – it’s not what we do here or at CEORater. However, the folks at the WSJ have taken the time to report their findings on Apple’s facial recognition technology (“FaceID”) which we covered in an earlier podcast.
You may access the Wall Street Journal article HERE
Hint: I hate it. Learn more – Ep. 48 CEORater Podcast – AAPL’s Siri Problem