Small and medium-sized businesses don't use wireless technology.
Barber shops use wireless technology. Accounting firms use wireless technology. Grocery stores do. And clothing stores. The point is that the world of SMB technology is, in reality, a massive stew of verticals. These verticals are further subdivided into very small and medium-size operations. A neighborhood walk-in medical clinic has a lot in common with a medium-sized hospital because, of course, they use a lot of the same equipment. But in other and very significant ways, it has as much in common with a local law firm because they are similar in size.
It's all very confusing. That's why vendors, service providers, analysts and journalists often blithely refer to "the SMB market" as if that covers everything. Yet, there are almost infinite shades of gray. That should be welcomed as good news, since each shade provides a different opportunity.
That's good context for the announcement this week of AT&T ForHealth. Health care, of course, is among the most identifiable verticals for a number of reasons: How well IT functions literally is a matter of life and death, billions of dollars are floating around the sector and its needs are unique and highly specialized.
AT&T already has a long history in the vertical, of course. It remains to be seen if the new entity signifies an increase in attention to the medical sector or is merely an exercise in branding. It is not that AT&T is slacking off in medicine. Matt Kapko at RCR Wireless writes:
AT&T says it generated $4 billion in revenue from the health care industry alone last year. Hospitals, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, suppliers and physicians all contributed to AT&T's growth in the sector. AT&T is also boasting an exclusive endorsement it received last month from the American Hospital Association that covers a suite of services that enable the sharing of health information and applications.
More than just wireless will be covered by ForHealth, but it is important to recognize that mobility is the star in this sector because of the nature of medical care. The emergence of smartphones, tablets such as Research in Motion's PlayBook and Cisco's Cius and highly specialized mobile apps are just what the doctor ordered.
In the bigger picture, look for carriers, vendors and the rest of the telecommunications ecosystem to dive even more overtly into verticals than they have to this point. This will happen because companies will be increasingly willing to build businesses and introduce products serving ever more granular pieces of these vertical markets.