Besides cost, poor design is the biggest barrier to adoption for both HIT and medical devices. When I saw the photo of Asus' thumb keyboard designed for their new ultra mobile PC (UMPC) I was reminded of Graffiti, the handwriting recognition user interface Palm developed for their PDAs. Graffiti was one those things that sort of made sense at the time, but quickly faded from the market. Time will tell whether this Asus UI will last or not.

Now that the initial flurry of stories about the new UMPCs is over, let's look at what it all might mean. These new devices are consumer oriented devices; probably stealth digital rights management (DRM) platforms. To cut it as a platform for caregivers, they will need to be smaller (enough to fit in a lab coat pocket), ruggedized enough to survive a waist-high drop onto linoleum, and water resistant so you can wipe off the inevitable patient fluids with disinfectant. Oh, and the enclosures will have to be made out of a material that is impervious to the deleterious effects of disinfectants, especially brittleness.

The best things about the UMPCs are the screen size and the promise of a standard Windows platform. These devices will never replace a laptop or tablet for EMRs, but could easily take over applications now deployed on PDAs. The device that comes closest to health care requirements is still the OQO.