The next Microsoft-Google battleground could end up being the healthcare space.
Microsoft is set to announce a number of new healthcare products and initiatives on July 26 during a press event in Washington, D.C. Microsoft officials declined to specify exactly what Peter Neupert, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Health Solutions, will unveil at next week's event. But the company may opt to roll out plans for a Windows Live Healthcare service, the existence of which has been the subject of rumors for the past few months.
For their part, Google executives have been dropping hints for several months about some kind of Google Health service. But when asked during Google's earnings call on July 20 about Google Health, company executives said only that they were experimenting with health-related initiatives and learning from Google Co-Op, and implied that no new Google health-related products were slated for immediate release.
(Google Co-op is Google's platform for vertical search, which the company announced in May 2006.)
Via a corporate statement, Microsoft described next week's healthcare announcement this way: "Peter (Neupert) will be discussing the company's ongoing commitment to the healthcare industry and some exciting new developments."
Microsoft appointed Neupert as its health czar in September 2005. Neupert, who at one time was responsible for Microsoft's OS/2 strategy, served more recently as chairman of Drugstore.com. Currently, he is charged with building "Microsoft's efforts to partner with stakeholders in the health ecosystem to help people worldwide better deal with health issues."
Sources close to Microsoft said Microsoft's Health Strategy group has been building "Windows Live Healthcare" offerings that would appeal to both consumers and businesses. Whether Microsoft would fund these services with ads (like many of the already announced Windows Live services) or charge for them on a subscription basis (a la Office Live) remains to be seen.
If and when Microsoft does launch a Live Healthcare service, it would mark the first time Microsoft has discussed a vertical Windows Live service, as opposed to horizontally-focused properties, such as Windows Live Search, Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Messenger.
Microsoft also is thought to be building new healthcare-focused portals which may or may not replace the existing MSN Healthcare site.
Microsoft is convening a Microsoft Healthcare User Group Technical Forum in Redmond in late August. The event is designed to bring together healthcare partners, Microsoft executives and "industry thought leaders" to share tips on building, deploying and managing healthcare solutions in a secure way "using a full range of current and soon-to-be-released Microsoft products," including Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.
Other topics on the agenda include Windows Mobile security, healthcare standards, RFID, service-oriented architectures and consumer-driven healthcare.
Microsoft does not expect its MSN/Windows Live business to be profitable in fiscal 2007, which runs through June 30, 2007, company officials told financial analysts on July 20. Microsoft has said it is planning to make substantial personnel, infrastructure and advertising investments in its that part of its business in the coming year.