Could Microsoft Beat Google to the Health-Service Punch?

Microsoft is thought to be readying a Windows Live Healthcare service, as well as other new health-focused portal and content wares. Will the Redmond software maker beat Google Health out of the gate? (Microsoft Watch)

The next Microsoft-Google battleground could end up being the health care space.

Microsoft is set to announce a number of new health care products and initiatives on July 26 during a press event in Washington, D.C. Microsoft officials declined to specify exactly what Peter Neupert, Microsofts corporate vice president of Health Solutions, will unveil at next weeks 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 Googles 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 Googles platform for vertical search, which the company announced in May 2006.)

Via a corporate statement, Microsoft described next weeks health care announcement this way: "Peter (Neupert) will be discussing the companys 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 Microsofts OS/2 strategy, served more recently as chairman of Currently, he is charged with building "Microsofts efforts to partner with stakeholders in the health ecosystem to help people worldwide better deal with health issues."

Sources close to Microsoft said Microsofts 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.

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