The prediction that the number of users for CCH's Global fx suite, an Internet-based set of applications, will double by the end of tax season isn't a big deal. That is simply a jump from 4,000 users to 8,000.

But there is increasing evidence that Internet-based computing is gaining acceptance in the tax and accounting community.

On the consumer side, Intuit is seeing shifts in its revenue pattern as the number of paid users of Web TurboTax grows sharply. The total reached 3.4 million for the 2005 filing season, up from 2.8 million a year earlier. In both consumer and professional markets, the announcements of new Web-based applications are increasing noticeably.

Also, professional users are starting to see the advantages of having documents available to remote workers, of being able to collaborate via the Internet, and of having a greater assurance of keeping data safe.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Katrina just reminded us--as did the 2004 wave of hurricanes--that backed-up data needs to be stored some distance from the original site. It's not safe in the same town, or necessarily in the same state. Internet-based back-up systems offer the ability to put data hundreds of miles away.

The market is moving past the Internet-for-the-Internet's sake approach of why people should use the Web, into providing solid business reasons for doing so. Accountants proved with tax research that they will leap on a new technology that gives them a demonstrable return or saves time and expense. They did it first with CD-ROM, and then with Web-based research. What is now occurring is also a fairly typical progression as new technology is understood, as users become more comfortable with it, and as they move past the hype and the dazzle.

In the early stages of a new technology, doubling the number of users on a small base is common as the adoption moves up the first steep slope of a bell curve. It looks like there's a good chance the tax and accounting market will start hitting the fat part of the bell in a couple of years.  

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