February 27, 2007 in Business

Microsoft enters health-care market

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Gertrude Boyle, chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear Co., tells Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates that after all of the years her company has used his products, he needs to try one of her company’s jackets Monday in Seattle. Gates was taking part in “Launch Tour 2007” to tout the release of Microsoft Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and Exchange Server 2007.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK — Microsoft Corp. made its first foray Monday into the growing consumer health care market with its acquisition of Medstory, a closely held company that is developing an Internet search engine for health information.

Microsoft didn’t reveal the purchase price. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer made the announcement of the acquisition during his keynote at the Health Information and Management Systems Society Conference in New Orleans Monday. He also announced The Connected Health Framework Architecture and Design Blueprint, the first in a series of guidance documents and tools Microsoft has created for health care providers.

The decision by Microsoft to enter the consumer health care market and participate more fully in the overall industry is part of a bigger strategy to diversify from its core product lines of Windows and Office, which make up 90 percent of its earnings, but are maturing markets with lower growth potential.

Microsoft has said in order to spark more growth, it needs to enter markets that will substantially expand. Earlier this month, Ballmer noted that consumer health care is an area where the company would be making upcoming announcements.

Medstory, a closely held startup in Foster City, Calif., runs a free search site that provides results from the Web and from select health and medical sources.

“With Microsoft’s reach and experience, I look forward to this soon becoming a standard for online searches of health information,” said Dr. Alain Rappaport, chief executive and founder of Medstory, in a press release Monday.

The search technology should be incorporated into the fitness section of its main MSN Web site and other areas “in time,” said Steve Shihadeh, general manager of Microsoft’s health solutions group.

Overall, health-care costs are expected to make up about 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product by the year 2015. The number of people seeking health care information on the Internet should expand substantially as aging baby boomers develop ailments associated with the senior years.

Also, seniors are among the fastest growing segment on the Internet.

“Medstory is a great first step” in the consumer health market, “expect more to come,” Shihadeh said.

Shares of Microsoft rose 2 cents to $28.92 in early afternoon trading Monday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The software company is based in Redmond, Wash.

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