Mobile Technologies: Tablets and Smartphones

BY JEFF DREW
October 26, 2011

With 2012 just around the corner, the JofA gathered the three technology keynote speakers from the AICPA’s 2011 Practitioners Symposium/TECH+ Conference to talk about tech trends heading into the new year. The nearly 90-minute conversation covered a wide range of technical issues critical to all CPAs.

Participating in the call were:

  • David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, aka Inspector Gadget, a principal with Arxis Technology.
  • Randy Johnston, executive vice president of both Network Management Group Inc. and K2 Enterprises.
  • Rick Richardson, CPA/CITP, founder and CEO of Richardson Media & Technologies.


Moderating the call were:

  • J. Carlton Collins, technology and accounting systems consultant and author of the JofA’s monthly Technology Q&A column.
  • Jeff Drew, senior editor covering technology for the JofA.


The JofA is presenting the online version of the conversation in 10 installments released over a nearly two-month span. Each part focuses on one major topic and features audio clips from the conversation. Part four explores mobile computing technologies such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

The complete schedule is available at the bottom of this article and at journalofaccountancy.com/tech.


Audio

Audio: Click here to listen as Randy Johnston, Rick Richardson and Dave Cieslak discuss mobile devices for CPAs.

Drew: Let’s talk some about mobile technologies. I want to touch on what roles will the smartphone, tablet and laptop play for the CPA in the coming years. Will, for example, the tablet ever replace the laptop as the computer of choice for CPAs, or will we see something else, like these ultrathin netbooks, taking over? Also, what should we look for in the smartphone and tablet markets in 2012 in terms of devices and apps? And going back to security, what are the keys to wireless security? What are the most important things CPAs can do to protect sensitive client data? And Randy, do you want to start us off on that please?

Randy Johnston

Johnston: Well, I’ll give it a whirl. Man, you have a lot of different questions there, so I’ll try to remember to circle back on each of those different things. I believe that the touch-screen environments will continue to improve the resolution, and ease of seeing will get better, although any of the Apple products, the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 today and the iPhone 4S, I think they’re quite well done as they stand.

I think we’ll get additional voice recognition capabilities that work better, and we’ve already seen that in the current Android platforms and the iPhone platforms and so forth. We are seeing the first of the multicore, the multiprocessor phones, which give a lot more computing power. And interestingly enough, they’re not burning a lot more batteries to give us a lot more speed.

So something that I think I discussed with the (TECH+ Conference) attendees about three years ago was the virtualization of the smartphones to run more and more things simultaneously. Many of the new tablet competitors for the iPad are truly running applications simultaneously.

I don’t think most of the tablets, with the speeds that they have today, will replace the laptops necessarily. But I still like to position tablets mentally as devices for consuming content, and things that have the keyboards today as being things for creating content, although that’s not quite as strong as it was. And the further you are in an organization, further up, if you’re an executive-level person, there’s less chance you’ll actually be doing a lot of the data-entry items.

So we are concerned about the wireless security. We want that to be encrypted at all times, and we think that all of the communications from the MiFis and the tablets and so forth should all be set up that way. I think it might be helpful to let maybe a few of the other guys on the call speak about that.

Rick RichardsonRichardson: Well, Randy, this is Rick. I would concur with your comment about the tablets not replacing laptops, at least particularly for those that have heavy computing use. There are now a dozen or more Bluetooth keyboards out for most of these tablets that can do a pretty decent job for data entry. But it still comes down to the fact that the iPad or (HP) Slate or whatever tablet you may be using is really a marvelous consumer of information as opposed to creator of it.

I think the people that need it for communications, whether it be email, texting or videoconferencing, that do presentations with clients, those are the kind of people that are going to gravitate to that architecture quickly. And I think as we see local networking change, even potentially out on job sites for our people in the field, the tablet may be more viable for some work as well.

In terms of the comments that people make about the fact that “it’s great for watching a movie, but I’m not sure I’d do a spreadsheet on it,” I guess I can concur with that, but I also feel very strongly that—I’ve actually gotten to the stage now where I’ve taken five trips and the only thing I brought with me was a tablet. Yes, I wasn’t doing much other than email and communicating back to home base, if you will. But I don’t see that the—I think the laptop got stretched as a device because it was the lightest thing we had at the time. And an awful lot of people are going to find that they can exist just fine with a tablet.

AudioAudio: Click here to listen to Dave Cieslak discuss security implications for mobile devices. 

David CieslakCieslak: Yeah, and this is David. I’ll just go ahead, and I know one of the questions that Jeff had shared there, or had asked about, was just securing these devices. And obviously, these things are smaller, portable and definitely easier to misplace or otherwise have lifted. So we’re looking at all the different portable devices in our lineup, and we’re recommending to folks that just … at the simplest level … you’re making sure to password-protect everything. But then from there, if there is confidential data on there, that you’re encrypting it and that you consider having some kind of a remote-wipe capability on any one of these mobile devices, too, because I think that’s essential.

I mean, I speak about security a lot, and I always—you know, kind of one of the phrases I’ve been known to repeat many, many times is we need to think about security first and convenience second. And I think as these devices become more portable and more pervasive, I think we start to lose sight of the fact that maybe we do have a lot of very important information still tied up in these devices. So it’s important to make sure that they all do, in fact, fall under a good, solid security framework. So I look at things like a remote-wipe tool, the ability to kind of clean the device off if it does get misplaced or otherwise taken from us. I’d look at that and say that’s pretty critical.

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