Tipping Points and Anniversaries

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Just over 20 years ago, IBM held a press conference to announce that it  had killed a much-ridiculed product called PCJr. that was supposed to be the consumer equivalent of its hit, the original IBM PC.

CPAs and VARs

You don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in a study to find out what most in the accounting community know: CPAs produce more leads for accounting software resellers than any other single source.

Partner Insights

So what is the best way for accounting software resellers and accounting firms to work together to solve client business needs. The CPA-VAR Connection looks at what vendors are doing to encourage relationships and how firms are taking things into their own hands.

To reach those customers, VARs and accounting firms must market. In “Marketing Masters,” Associate Editor Carly Lombardo examines how some top practitioners spread their message.

Only middle-aged trivia buffs need be concerned with the reasons for this particular, spectacular failure. But there was one claim for the product’s potential that stands out in my memory. Users, IBM officials said, could take their work home. In this case, that meant transporting a disk home from the office. But the idea was that people could have the same application in both places.

A couple of months after that PCJr died, a publication called Computers in Accounting was born. Just over eight years later, it would become known as Accounting Technology.

The point is not nostalgia. Nostalgia is great for those who experienced it. But I think our readers need sterner stuff, such as lessons from the past that help them with the future. And the point is just how long it took to accomplish that IBM vision and what it took for that to occur.

It took a change in technology, including the development of more powerful computers, to make work at home possible, even before the advent of ubiquitous email. It also required a change in business culture, the expectation that it is productive and useful for employees to work at home. Part of that was triggered by economic turndowns, in which jettisoned executives began businesses at home, making it respectable. This lesson means I’m always amused when someone says that hosted applications failed to establish themselves as a viable mainstream process.

In memory of
Richard McCausland

Richard McCausland, senior editor of Accounting Technology, died on July 10 while attending the Microsoft Worldwide Reseller Conference in Toronto.

He joined the magazine in October 1998, developing a solid knowledge of the tax and accounting marketplace. Very private, and at times quiet, he would come alive when interviewing members of the profession for a story. He was a skilled and accurate reporter and writer who was also an immaculate editor of his own copy—a rare trait in a journalist. He could turn in 3,000-word stories without a misspelled word, a comma out of place, or a fact out of kilter. Rich loved movies and rarely missed the opening weekend for any film released in the United States. He also had a passion for travel that evidenced itself in surprising ways—he visited St. Petersburg and Moscow in December and was in Egypt at the outbreak of the Iraq war. He was always ready to hop on a plane to cover a story or attend a conference, especially if it took him to a new town. Never married, he was devoted to his nieces and nephews. He will be missed. He was 52.

Fax machines were around for years before they became a must-have item: Remember the curly, thermal paper? Cell telephones were around in the mid-1980s, long before they became attachments on the bodies of millions. They had to get smaller. The infrastructure had to improve before mass adoption.

No, we don’t know if hosted applications will become mainstream, or perhaps even the preferred way of interfacing with software programs. The cultural revolution that led business people to expect an independent PC on their desktop, as opposed to even an intelligent terminal, is still playing its way out.

Before that, people were used to time-sharing. They were used to having the process in someone else’s hands.

We may still get there. Oh, even if hosted applications become more successful, there will still be more intelligence in the average desktop computer than in a mainframe in the 1970s. But I think people will eventually begin to realize that there’s some truth to my observation: “Your data is never in more dangerous hands than when it’s in your own.” When business people tire of trying to be the office computer guru, or waiting for tech support, or throw up their hands when one last virus epidemic takes down the system once too often, we’re going to get there.

So just because it won’t happen this year, maybe not the next, or the year after that, it doesn’t mean the Year of the ASP isn’t coming.

Robert Scott—Editor

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