From the April/May 2009 Issue
You know the New Year is kicking into gear with the sight of new gadgets being
touted at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES; www.cesweb.org)
where a cadre of The CPA Technology Advisor‘s contributors converged
to see and experience the latest and greatest digital products. While many of
these products are targeted to the consumer rather than business user, there
are opportunities for use in accounting firms when you look at them with the
right perspective. Here is my 2009 line up of the coolest new tools and technologies
and how they may show up in your firm some day!
Lenovo W700 Dual Screen Laptop
The most practical application of technology I witnessed came from Lenovo (www.lenovo.com),
integrating a 10.6” screen into the lid of a 17” laptop. This screen
slips out in a vertical format for easy viewing of secondary documents. While
there have been dual and even triple monitor laptops, Lenovo is the first major
vendor to release a product that tax and accounting professionals would actually
Solid State Disks Become Mainstream
A number of laptop and camera manufacturers rolled out versions of Solid State
Disks (SSD) to replace traditional disk drives, bringing faster performance
and lower battery consumption. One opportunity for firms with laptops that are
in their third year of use but running slow by comparative standards is to give
them an “extension” of another year by replacing their existing
hard drive with an SSD. SanDisk (www.SanDisk.com)
touted 60GB replacement SSDs for $149 that are five times faster than the drives
inside and cost much less than the $500 to $800 annual capital cost of a new
laptop, which could be attractive in this tough economy.
DisplayLink Integrated Monitors
Adding a third or fourth monitor can be kludge if they are different sizes or
capacities, which causes most firms to “batch” similar models together
for ease of use. While Matrox’s DualHead2Go (www.matrox.com)
has been the mainstay for most tax and accounting firms, they are not effective
at mixed displays in a vertical (“portrait”) mode. Last year, DisplayLink
rolled out an easy adapter to work around this issue, and this year they built
their adapter directly into a number of screens from vendors such as Samsung
(www.lenovo.com) and Toshiba (www.toshiba.com) so they are as easy as plug and
play. The great thing about DisplayLink is that they can connect up to six different
screen sizes and formats simultaneously.
Easier USB Backups
rolled out their latest “Ultra Backup” USB fobs with capacities
of up to 64GB of storage. The twist this year is that these devices are being
touted as backup storage devices with integrated backup software to make it
easier to backup your critical files. For larger capacity backup needs, ClickFree
has a series of drives with “easy” integrated software. Or you can
use their USB Transformer cable to connect a computer to any other kind of external
hard drive, giving the user the benefit of the automated ClickFree system. The
USB Transformer was rated as one of the Top Ten Last Gadgets Standing. The beauty
of this device is that it can be used with your existing USB Hard Drive, which
may have already come with software but been difficult to use. This was the
case with our home family computer so I bought one on the spot ($60) to see
if it can streamline those backups!
Microsoft Windows Plan
I attended Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s first CES keynote, and the strongest
message sent was regarding Windows 7 (www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7),
which Ballmer stated would be the most secure and stable version of Windows.
The main announcement was that they were allowing people to download the Beta
immediately, so this signals Microsoft not trying to push Vista much more. While
I have been recommending that firms standardize on Windows XP Service Pack 2,
I feel it would be worthwhile for your IT personnel to download the Beta and
try it on a machine if they have some downtime during the busy season.
One of the strongest trends at the show was the explosion of mini-notebooks
that have limited hard drive and applications built in, but have maximum communications
capabilities to access web-based information and applications. These devices
are usually in a smaller format with screens in the 8- to 11-inch range but
are super light and have long battery life. As the accounting industry vendors
roll out their entire accounting suite of applications and document storage
on the web, we can expect tax and accounting firms to pilot the use of Netbooks
as a low cost and convenient alternative to the traditional laptop. To see what
we are talking about, take a look at the Dell Mini (www.dell.com/mini)
or the ASUS Eee PC (http://eeepc.asus.com).
Sony Vaio Lifestyle PC
Sony takes the evolution of the portable computer another step with its VAIO
Lifestyle PC (www.sonystyle.com/vaio),
which won CNET’s Best of CES award (www.cnet.com).
This mini-laptop has an 8-inch screen and a very functional keyboard even in
such a small package. The only thing I didn’t like was that it uses a
“track nub” rather than a touchpad, so I would have to opt for an
external optical mouse.
LiveScribe Pulse Pen
This product (www.livescribe.com/smartpen)
was touted at the annual CES Last Gadget Standing press event and integrates
note taking with audio in a format that can be captured and replayed digitally.
Imagine taking notes with a client and making recommendations that can all be
saved in a client file on your network. These notes and conversations are all
recorded and queued to the specific event to be accessed whenever you want.
The Livescribe allows the user to click on specific points within their notes
and listen to a recording of exactly what was said at the time the notes were
made. One cool feature is that you can draw a calculator and then actually use
it, but the catch is that you must do this all on their special paper.
LG Touch Watch Phone
Calling all Dick Tracy fans … oops! Two-thirds of your staff members probably
don’t know who he is! While a number of phones have been built small enough
to go on the wrist, LG (www.lge.com/us)
is the first major carrier to bring an actual one out. For a really upscale
appeal, LG has created a Prada Link Bluetooth version. Fully loaded, the watch
phone integrates a quad band GSM phone with a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, a full
HTML browser, stereo Bluetooth, FM Radio, Document Viewer, and 60MB storage,
all viewable through a 3-inch touchscreen. Probably time to upgrade my eyeglass
Prototypes for micro projectors have been around for a few years, but you can
finally buy one that will fit in the palm of your hand. Devices such as the
Nextar Z10 (www.nextar.com), MicroVision
and 3M Mpro (www.3MMPro.com)
are available and will eventually be built into cell phones. Financial reports
and tax returns could be easily reviewed with clients by projecting the information
on a small screen or wall.
Roman’s TOP CES Gadget Picks
- Lenovo W700 Dual Screen Laptop
- Solid State Disks
- DisplayLink Integrated Monitors
- USB Backups
- Microsoft Windows
- Sony VAIO LifeStyle PC
- LiveScribe Pulse Pen
- LG Touch Watch Phone
- Micro Projectors
- Digital Paper
- 3D Opportunities
- Personal GPS
- EmWave Personal Stress Reliever
- iClubby Workstation
Read about more about Roman’s top gadget picks from CES 2009 at www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/2310,
where he discusses Digital Paper, 3D Opportunities, Personal GPS, Stress Relievers
& the Ultimate Office Chair.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP is president of InfoTech Partners North America,
Inc. and works exclusively with CPA firms to implement today’s leading
best practices and technologies.
He can be contacted at email@example.com.
See inside April/May 2009
2009 Review of Small Business Accounting Systems: Tier I (Programs Under $1,000)
Small businesses in 2009 are not like small businesses were just twenty years ago. Technology and flexibility play an important role in the management of even the smallest business today. For 2009, we’ve divided our review of SMB accounting programs into two groups; this section looks at programs costing around $1,000 and under. Our June issue will focus on larger-scale SMB systems.
2009 Review of Professional Tax Compliance Systems
It seems like tax law changes are coming almost every week, and while this makes the professional’s job a little more challenging, it also helps ensure the need for experienced preparation services. Here is this year’s review of professional tax preparation systems.