This Christmas, my daughter and I were pleasantly surprised to see that Santa was thinking ahead and left a shiny new Xbox Kinect under the tree.  I had read a little bit about this new entry into the gaming market but had no real first-hand experience with its performance. Unlike my Father, who was not very interested in the Atari 2600 that Santa brought when I was 11, I immediately chose to forgo all other holiday duties to set up the Xbox. I was quickly rewarded by an interface that reminded me of the slick and fluid experiences from movies such as Minority Report and Avatar. I have been a touch device (iPhone/iPad) user for a few years now but the transition to a pure gesture modality was disorientating to say the least and it really got me thinking about the same transition the life science industry is making into mobile content delivery – at least it did after a few hours playing with our new Xbox ;)

According to a recent Manhattan Research study, 64% of U.S. physicians own a smartphone. They predict that by 2012 that number will increase to 81%, and there will be very few professional activities that physicians won’t be performing on handheld devices. Research analytics firm SDI found that 52% of handheld users obtain medical information several times a day, compared to 37% of those using a desktop or laptop. Finally, based on a report from Quantcast, Google's mobile OS now has a 25% market share. Meanwhile, iOS has fallen by 11 points in that same period, resulting in a current share of 56%. Clearly demand for content on mobile and iPad-like devices will become ubiquitous with traditional web content delivery in the very near future.

While the life science industry has been slower to adopt mobile and touch experiences than their early-adopter consumer goods and services industries cousins have, demand is starting to heat up. The regulatory environment we all work in will present hurdles but when mobile is finally adopted into the “norm,” it will mark an even more radical departure from the traditional modes of delivery (websites, email, paid search, and display advertising) than we saw with social media. Already companies are using the mobile and iPad platforms to target their audiences. Salesforce teams are using the iPad for eDetailing; Pharma is using mobile applications to supplement disease management programs for patients; physicians and nurses are provided with clinical research and diagnostic tools. The list is growing and will only get longer.

What challenges will this transition bring? As we are seeing with the current unresolved debate around social media, mobile content delivery will bring up a slew of issues for DDMAC and legislators to weigh in on. How will content such as important safety information be displayed in the limited screen real estate of an Android device? What will iPad touch interfaces do to streamline the process of accessing complex information? And how will this new way of interfacing with content affect audiences’ expectations of traditional browser-based websites?

It will be quite some time before we walk down the street and have information presented to us in holographic format based on our ‘implanted’ user profile, but the time has come for the entire industry to wake up and realize the future is now.

Even if mobile is not part of your strategy today, it at least needs to be planned for so you don’t get left behind. At the very least, I recommend everyone at least try out the new Xbox – it’s a real glimpse into what our children’s children will take for granted in the not too distant future.