Health care plan provider OptumHealth has released a new wellness application for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile platform.
OptumizeMe, available in the Windows Phone Marketplace, allows people to present a health challenge to friends in Facebook and other social media applications. Users receive virtual badges for meeting their fitness goals.
Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's latest attempt to break into the smartphone and mobile app space currently dominated by the Google Android and the Apple iPhone.
Setting goals in exercise and nutrition is the focus of OptumizeMe, according to Karl Ulfers, vice president of consumer advisory solutions for OptumHealth, a division of UnitedHealth Group.
GPS capabilities in Windows Phone 7 allow OptumizeMe users to locate friends and join them in fitness challenges. The app can post automatic fitness updates to a friend's wall in Facebook.
Users can challenge Facebook friends to match fitness goals, such as a number of push-ups, or a number of miles to run, Ulfers told eWEEK. Users can customize fitness goals and create stakes for winning, whether, it's money, a free dinner or a beer, he said.
"We wanted to create a mobile experience that leverages the community within the application," said Ulfers.
Using an app such as OptumizeMe on Facebook could provide the motivation and support to conquer goals such as weight loss and cessation of smoking.
"Most people want to adopt a healthier lifestyle, whether it's quitting smoking or losing weight or exercising more. You can pick any one of those areas and tap into the social network to give you that support system and also make it entertaining at the same time," said Dr. Dennis Schmuland, Microsoft's director of health plans industry solutions.
"It's merging healthier living with entertainment and the power of social networks," Schmuland told eWEEK. "If you put those three things together, it just makes healthier living more fun and a more reinforcing experience."
For OptumHealth, launching OptumizeMe on Windows Phone 7 was appealing because of Microsoft's "greenfield approach" as far as the software giant throwing out its previous mobile platform and starting from scratch, according to Ulfers.
"If it would have been the same old platform they had, it wouldn't have been as intriguing an opportunity," Ulfers explained.
"It makes living a healthy lifestyle easier and more fun for people with Windows Phone 7 mobile devices by creating connections with friends who share similar fitness goals," Rob Webb, CEO of OptumHealth Care Solutions, said in a statement. "Most of us already use our social networks to stay in touch with each other, so why not use them to share the experience of getting healthier together?"
Windows Phone 7 is "designed to streamline your interactions with the phone and create a glance-and-go experience and enable people to get things done in fewer steps," said Microsoft's Schmuland.
The Windows Phone 7 platform is available from 60 mobile operators in 30 countries and launched on AT&T and T-Mobile on Nov. 8. Redmond is expected to add Windows Phone 7 models on Verizon Wireless in early 2011.
OptumHealth plans to launch OptumizeMe on the Android and iPhone platforms next, said Ulfers.
Smartphones running Windows Phone 7 include the Samsung Focus, LG Quantum, HTC Surround, HTC HD7 and the Dell Venue Pro.
Another health app on the OS, 5k Sidekick, motivates runners to reach 5 kilometers in nine weeks and provides onscreen training logs.
Meanwhile, a Windows Phone 7 app called GPS Trainer tracks time, current/average pace, distance, altitude, latitude and longitude. It sends the data to the runner via e-mail.