The iPad vs. the Surface Pro. iOS vs. Windows 8. Apple vs. Microsoft. Have these two tech heavyweights elicited an internal debate within pharma companies over which device is better for their sales teams or is the choice a foregone conclusion? After all, pharma has already heavily adopted the iPad and they are not alone. According to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, worldwide tablet shipments have increased 142.4% year over year in the first quarter of 2013 with Apple capturing 39.6% of the market share of tablet operating systems compared to Microsoft’s 3.3%—however Android comes out on top with 56.5%. Of course, Microsoft has only recently ramped up its presence in this market with its release of the Surface RT and Surface Pro in the beginning of this year and we wouldn’t be having this discussion if pharma didn’t have some reservations over the iPad.

“The iPad is a very powerful sales tool and when used effectively the benefits to a business or brand are substantial,” explains Kent Potts, VP Marketing at SKURA, a company whose SKURA SFX Mobile Sales Enablement platform is the preferred mobile platform for over 34,000 sales reps in 34 countries around the world. “The downfall of the iPad in pharma is that it is a peripheral device and one of three devices a sales rep carries: 1) laptop 2) mobile phone and 3) iPad. The desire to complete emails, spreadsheets, PowerPoint [presentations] is still tasked to the laptop device as touch-based user interfaces, like on the iPad, make using those creation applications (spreadsheets, content creation, i.e., Keynote) difficult and time consuming.”

Not to mention the fact that if a pharma company is giving each of their sales reps three devices then that is three devices the company has to pay for, manage and train their reps to use.

“The reduction of a device from a field force would be significant administrative cost savings for all departments: IT—one less platform to maintain and secure; Sales—one less device to deploy, train for and manage; Marketing—eliminating the creation of single platform content solutions (Native iOS apps),” says Potts.

All of this means that there is an opening for another device to come in and capture pharma’s heart while taking less out of the company’s bank account. The question of course then becomes, “Is it worth it?” What are the advantages of switching to Windows 8? Is it better to stick with the iPad? And when it comes right down to it, which is better for the company and its sales force?

Edward Ferron, Director of the Microsoft Technology Center, feels that Windows 8 and the Surface offers some advantages that could benefit pharma—or really any industry.

“One of the biggest benefits that we see across industries is that it especially helps companies save time and reduce cost,” explains Ferron. “Our global market strategy is reducing the number of devices that an individual has to carry out in the field and at the same time providing a really great experience with Instant On (which our customers have been demanding) and also long battery life along with flexibility.”

On the vendor-side, Veeva Systems, a leader in cloud-based software for the global life sciences industry, recently released their CLM and CRM mobile offerings for Windows 8, after already having the offerings available for iOS devices. Their goal was to accommodate the client no matter their preference.

“A number of our customers have started to explore the move to a single device and are evaluating the potential impact to their businesses,” says Paul Shawah, VP of Commercial Strategy for Veeva Systems. “But whether or not this is the right move depends entirely on each organization. The benefits and trade-offs are specific to their unique needs and environments.”

Panorama asked experts around the industry for their preference and the benefits of each OS. As our respondents demonstrate, when it comes to pharma, some companies have already made their choice while others are constantly weighing their options.

Apple All the Way

The iPad is currently the industry standard, so for another device to knock it off its pedestal, it would have to undoubtedly prove to be the better option or the iPad would have to fail to adapt to a rep’s evolving needs. Derek Pollock, President of Proscape Technologies, a company that provides sales and marketing apps for many diverse markets across all sectors and geographies (including large pharmaceutical companies), says that their experience has shown that as reps continue to become more mobile the iPad has continued to meet their needs.

“Reps are seeking a convenient technology solution that offers just the right amount of functionality to help them successfully do their jobs,” says Pollock. “While they may rely on tools like Word and Excel in the office, these tools are unnecessary in the field. Instead, they need to deliver marketing messages, access email and the Internet, and manage customer lists. Reps can achieve all of these functions and more on the iPad.”

Furthermore, while Proscape has mobile apps available on all platforms including iOS, Android and Windows 8, approximately 90% of the companies they work with want to view their apps on the iPad. Meanwhile, according to Pollock, the remaining 10% of companies prefer to view their apps on Android tablets largely due to cost, as they are based in emerging markets.

“While the Surface may take off as a single solution in time, it seems that the demands of sales reps in the field would need to drastically change,” says Pollock. “The Surface would also need to challenge the iPad’s dominance among tablets and begin to gain recognition as a formidable competitor.”

Bill M. Smith, Director, CNS Global Strategic Marketing at Teva Pharmaceuticals actually believes that the Surface comes up short because it is trying to be an all-in-one solution.

“The Microsoft Surface Pro was introduced as a laptop killer, a device that crammed an Ultrabook experience into the body of a 10-inch tablet,” explains Smith. “But like many products before it that tried to be two things at once, the Surface Pro does neither as well as those designed for single function and in the end, proves that one computing device can’t do everything well.”

According to Smith, the Surface fails as a tablet because it is larger and heavier than the iPad; its battery life is limiting; the resolution, while good, is no comparison to the Retina Display offered by its competitor (and the wide 16:9 aspect ratio limits its usefulness as a tablet); and a lack of apps leaves most users yearning for more. It also fails as a laptop in his view because it’s hampered by a smaller screen size, lacks a decent mouse option, doesn’t really sit well on the lap and it’s too immutable to do everything a laptop needs to do. And there is one other important factor that makes the iPad a more favorable option for pharma: It is still largely the device of choice by healthcare professionals.

“Right now the iPad has no competition within the healthcare market,” says Richard Meyer, Director at Online Strategic Solutions. “While the Windows 8 Surface does have some advantages, such as the ability to integrate with people using the Windows operating system, the very slow adoption of Windows 8 and the problems with the interface are going to continue to ensure that Apple is the first choice for healthcare professionals.”

Meyer also points out that Apple recently revealed its new iOS 7, which will be available on Apple mobile devices this fall and offers some new features that could make it an even more attractive option. For instance, the new “Today” feature gives users a quick glance at what their upcoming day looks like including meetings, the weather forecast and traffic conditions. Multitasking has also been improved as apps will now learn when you like to use them and update before your regular log-on time so you have the latest information. Sharing files is also easier with AirDrop, where you can easily hit a Share button and then just select the person you want to send the items to.

However, the allure of a single device is too strong for some companies to resist.

A Single Device Solution

Jeff Morgan, Director of Commercial Analytics at Merz Pharmaceuticals, LLC says his company, like most of pharma, has adopted the iPad for its sales force. Merz also made this move fairly recently, in the last 18 months, so he says a switch to a new device is unlikely to happen within the next two to three years. Still, he likes the potential of the Microsoft Surface.

According to Morgan, the integration of one platform that can do CRM integrated with core Microsoft programs (such as Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint) is going to be a key point of differentiation for Merz. That is why he sees two key advantages to switching to the Surface:

1. Nearly all of Merz’s custom reports are in Excel meaning they are in read only mode on the iPad and filters, pick lists and other Excel features aren’t functional.

2. Merz currently supports the iPad and a laptop for each sales representative, so going to one platform will save the company time and money.

In the end, however, the key for them is having a single device.

“If Apple and Microsoft work together to build a fully functional version of Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Word for the iPad we will stay with it,” says Morgan. “If there is no integration solution and CRM systems such as Veeva do work on the Surface tablet, I suspect we will see the industry make rapid moves to Windows 8.”

(As it turns out, Microsoft and Apple recently released a version of Office Mobile for iPhone only for subscribers to Microsoft’s Office 365 Home Premium and ProPlus service. It did not, however, release a version for the iPad, as Microsoft believes iPad users can just use the available Office Web Apps. At press time there was no known dedicated Office app in development for the iPad.)

Morgan says that Merz’s sales teams currently prefer the iPad because that is what they are familiar with and they see it as a giant step forward from the laptops they used to lug around. But he believes that they could easily adapt to the Surface if it delivers the functionality and the ease of use that Microsoft touts.

Biogen Idec is another pharmaceutical company on the lookout for a viable single device. Dave Kotlyar, Sr. Support Analyst, Field Force Support Services at Biogen Idec is in charge of hardware and software support for Biogen Idec’s field sales force. It is his job to work with the business and various IT groups to create the best technology map and support model for the company’s sales reps.

Currently, Biogen Idec has a two-device model for its sales reps with a laptop and an iPad, but Kotlyar has been exploring a potential shift to a one-device model with a laptop/tablet hybrid device, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro, Lenovo’s Helix or similar devices. However, in his opinion Windows 8 is not enterprise-friendly enough and the hybrid devices themselves do not fulfill the company’s requirements for a long-lasting device that is also cost-effective.

But like Apple, Windows is rolling out an update to its operating system and Kotlyar believes that Windows 8.1 comes closer to meeting their needs. For instance, the update includes more enterprise-friendly features in the core OS that would make it more attractive to large-scale IT organizations such as better virtual private network (VPN) integration and more customization including enterprise-controlled Start screens. Another attractive feature comes at the hands of Intel’s release of the Haswell CPU architecture, which allows for large gains in battery life and performance. For now, Kotlyar is willing to be patient as he says the company will have a better looking roadmap of the tablet market in several months’ time.

“I see Microsoft’s Surface line as a large step toward blurring the line between computer and tablet, and with these current and upcoming releases, a large step toward equipping our sales reps with a single device that allows them to combine the convenience, portability and ease of use of the iPad along with the power of a full laptop experience,” explains Kotlyar. “As it stands right now, there is large support for the iPad within our field sales community. They can receive emails almost anywhere in the country over a 3G connection, and the iOS platform has been proven to be a stable and effective mobile operating system that has allowed them to perform their duties efficiently. While there is interest in looking at Surface tablets, the lack of 3G connectivity in the current models is a detractor for implementing them as a replacement to the iPad.”

Don’t Forget About Android (Or the Purely Agnostic Approach)

With all of this debate over iOS vs. Windows 8, Android has largely been ignored as a viable option for pharma and yet, as stated above, it is currently the most popular OS on the market.

“Android has a more significant chance for widespread adoption in pharma compared to Windows 8,” says Leerom Segal, Co-founder, President and CEO of Klick Health. “From an enterprise standpoint, Google’s office suite (Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs) is already in use across small and medium-sized firms. In fact, large firms such as Genentech are already using Google for their office suite needs. Therefore, it would be more likely for the major pharma sales aid platforms to port over to Android tablets before they go to the Windows 8 Surface.”

However, Segal stills views the iPad as the current industry standard and Klick Health is merely taking a wait and see approach as the tablet market develops. For now, the iPad offers the most familiarity to sales reps because it is the most widely used tablet in North America, both personally and commercially, and the argument could be made that Apple has an advantage in enterprise management. Besides, Segal envisions a future where the apps and office suites that pharma desires will work on any OS, so you might as well stick with the solution you have already poured your money into.

“We believe that in the coming years, the majority of enterprise office suites will migrate to the cloud so that access and functionality will be more and more device agnostic,” says Segal. “Therefore, there is more of an argument at this time to stay on the sales aid platform which is the industry standard and for which significant investment has already been made. Between the two types of pharma enterprise needs, sales aids and admin tools, it will be more likely that admin tools migrate across hardware and OS platforms first.”

The future can also be unpredictable. At this time, we don’t know if one OS will run away with the field or if someone working out of a basement will develop something new that no one is even considering and wipes the floor with the current options.

“The important thing to note is that you have to be prepared for the ‘next’ device,” explains Potts. “If you do not have a device agnostic approach to your content creation, application development and sales enablement platforms, you will go the way of the dinosaur. If you are creating content and applications for a single hardware platform you are wasting company money—everything you do digitally going forward should be adaptable and adoptable by any hardware platform.”

Consider this example from Potts: You spend thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of dollars creating an iPad app to engage and share with your physicians. Your reps have iPads but your targeted physician owns an Android tablet. How will it look? Will it even work? Are the screen sizes different?

That is why Potts says that every company should have the following mandate when it comes to tablets: “Use one, prepare for all.”

Ultimately, as technology companies battle for supremacy in the tablet market, it will only benefit pharma.

“Only time will tell what offering will be the most popular,” says Eyal Steinitz, Chief Operating Officer of Agnitio, a leading provider of CLM solutions for pharma. “What is certain is that any competition between tablet manufacturers is long-term beneficial for the whole eco system. It drives innovation, increases choice and reduces cost(s). And whether the platform is Microsoft or Apple, it is vital that the software suite that is used takes full advantage of the tablets’ capabilities and that life science companies and their reps fully use what they have at their fingertips to truly engage in one-to-one conversations with their customers.”

  • Show Comments

  • jacreatech

    As this post is essentially a year old and a lot has changed in that year. (eg. HealthKit, new Surface, Win 8.1, FDA releases data etc.) I’d be curious to see if the needle has moved somewhat. From my own experience, it has if only in thought and not in action just yet. I for one am a proponent and advocate of where Win 8 and the Surface is evolving to. Frankly while iPad remains dominant, it is no longer the shiny new object it was given its ubiquitious market saturation and Apples slight shift in focus. I’m hoping Microsoft has it right and will finally have an OS and device that truly is that multi use device professionals seek.

  • melsnyder

    Now 2 yard from the original post, the market has not shifted toward Windows/Surface at all. The imminent release of a 12-inch iPad is likely to be a great boon to pharma – especially when the audience is a payer or C-suite, where one-on-two and one-on-three presentations are routine.

    With full iPad versions of Office 365, and custom apps for virtually every field need, Apple has firmed its grip on pharma. That grip has tightened on the hospital market; while the iPad Mini has peaked among consumers, it still seems popular in hospitals because it fits in many lab coats (some vendors now market coats with iPad-fit claims). The iPhone 6 Plus may prove competitive, though.

    In August 2014, Microsoft revealed in an 8-K statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had lost $1.7 billion on its Surface line of tablets at that point, which is nearly double the $900 million write down that Microsoft took in 2013 on unsold Surface inventory.

    Bottom line: MSFT would be thrilled to give away its Surface to pharma for free if it could persuade them to take it. The only way it could get the Surface onto NFL sidelines was to pay the NFL $400 million to use them – and to ban iPads. Maybe that’s what it will have to do to persuade a few pharmas to ditch their iPads in favor of the Surface.

  • jacreatech2015

    melsnyder  Hey there, so here we are yet another year later. I am honestly still on the fence. Several of my clients have actually moved to the current iteration of Surface. I would say even with that, the Surface still leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps Windows 10 will show promise. One of the inherent benefits of using an MSFT device is that a great percentage of organizations have an MSFT backbone making it far easier to integrate. Even though they have enhanced the porting of Office into iPad, I still find the experience to be compromised compared to Surface where I can work in a true multitasking environment natively. Takes me twice as long on an iPad. I also don’t believe a 12.9 iPad with the same use case will be a boon. In isolated use cases such as perhaps a waiting room kiosk yes. But as a way to integrate into multiple uses at the institutional level, why not just then use a Mac Air at 13″. In summary, my hope is that the hybrid market will make more of a dent and perhaps be the next iteration of the diminishing tablet landscape. If Apple came out with a version, I’d be inclined to rethink my position.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *


You May Also Like

Choose Your Perspective

I had a tough week the week before Mother’s Day. I spent over 10 ...

Use Regulatory Compliance to Your Advantage

U.S. state and federal disclosure laws and the trend towards global transparency have created ...

Cutting Edge

What’s not to love about the latest technology and the hottest trendy products? Our ...