WebMD (NASDAQ: WBMD ) recently launched a new program within its iPhone app, known as Healthy Target, which pulls biometric data from compatible fitness trackers and medical devices into a unified app. The feature works in a similar manner as Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) recently unveiled HealthKit and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) Google Fit, which has yet to be formally announced.
Healthy Target is a bit different from other health monitoring apps because it reorganizes steps taken, heart rate, hours slept, and other data into personalized health advice. If you don't get enough sleep, for example, the app displays ways that sleep deprivation could adversely affect your health. It also displays medical articles related to the user's activities, and presents weekly progress reports.
The app is specifically designed for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, but anyone can use it to work toward six primary goals: to lose weight, eat healthier, be more active, control blood sugar, feel better, and sleep better.
WebMD's Healthy Target vs. Apple's HealthKit
Healthy Target certainly seems like it's competing for the same market as Apple's HealthKit.
But David Zeigler, director of product management at WebMD, stated that Healthy Target will "be working with HealthKit -- not against it" in an interview at Mashable. Ziegler pointed out that Apple's wanted to bring all the data together onto a single visual dashboard, and "not to provide its own content."
While that statement makes sense, it's also obvious that Healthy Target could make WebMD's mobile app, which currently has roughly 20 million users, an attractive all-in-one alternative to Apple's Health. In fact, both companies share similar partners, including FitBit and Jawbone. Moreover, both Healthy Target and Health pull step recording information from the motion-sensing capabilities of the iPhone 5s' M7 chip.
Apple still has the upper hand
But for now, Apple's HealthKit offers a more complete package. HealthKit is already integrated with electronic health records (EHRs) giant Epic Systems, which reaches more than half of U.S. patients, and the prestigious Mayo Clinic.
But WebMD is likely to announce more partners in the fitness trackers, medical devices, and possibly other fitness apps in the future, which could considerably broaden its appeal. It could also add Healthy Target to its Android version as well and reach a larger market than HealthKit, since Apple holds a 41% share of the U.S. smartphone market, compared to 52% for Google, according to comScore's most recent numbers.
Could Healthy Target for Android derail Google Fit?
If WebMD releases Healthy Target on Android, it could pose yet another problem for Google Fit. Google's plan for a unified Android health dashboard already faces three key challenges: a fragmented universe of hardware, security and privacy issues, and Samsung's (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) own fitness projects.
Samsung's U.S. market share, most comprised of Android phones, currently stands at 27% -- accounting for more than half of all Android smartphones in the U.S. Samsung has approached the fitness market from all angles -- with its Galaxy Gear smartwatches, the Simband modular reference design for third-party manufacturers, and S Health, its own health dashboard for Samsung Galaxy phones. It even launched its own open-source OS, Tizen, on smart watches, TVs, and phones, in a bid to slowly detach itself from the Android ecosystem.
If Samsung defects from the Android army and WebMD swoops in with Healthy Target, Google Fit could quickly fade away as a mere afterthought for fitness device and app developers.
The Foolish takeaway
In conclusion, WebMD's Healthy Target is an interesting new contender in the upcoming battle for supremacy in unified health dashboards, but it's no HealthKit killer.
Healthy Target will likely appeal to current users of WebMD's mobile app, but it might seem redundant to many iPhone users when Health is released with iOS 8 in the fall. Nonetheless, Healthy Target is still a unique way for WebMD to generate fresh interest for its main portal site. Higher traffic could boost WebMD's advertising revenue, which accounted for 82% of the company's top line last quarter.
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