Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

What You Really Need

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

What You Really Need

Article excerpt

What's new, what's hot, what's necessary.

While technical innovation continues at breakneck speed, wise computer users would do well to pause before hurrying to buy the latest computer, software or gadget that hits the market. Some of the new gear is essential, but many new products add little or nothing to CPAs' productivity. The goal of this article is twofold: to review what's new and hot in technology and to guide you on whether to invest in it.

Meanwhile, these recent developments are having significant influence on whether and what you should buy:

* Prices of computers and some peripheral equipment plummeted last year, making it hard to justify not upgrading from those poky old models just because they haven't been fully depreciated.

* Computer operating speeds zoomed into the fast lane--running so speedily that even large, resource-demanding software applications such as office suites and networks now work at what some call "New York time." As a result, it makes good business sense to invest in a computer that runs at speeds at or above 250 megahertz (MHz).

* The Internet finally has become Big Business--so big, in fact, that it's wagging the software dog. To wit: Microsoft's latest products are specifically designed to be extremely Net friendly.

A HARD LOOK AT SOFTWARE

Microsoft, whose operating systems are on about 90% of all personal computers in the world, soon will introduce a new operating system. That product will mark a dramatic shift in Microsoft's strategy: It will not only draw the final curtain on Windows 98, the current operating system, but it also will be the end of the line for all the "old" Windows software. While Microsoft will continue to support the old Windows, its next focus will be on a new breed of operating system based on the industrial-strength and network version of Windows NT (which stands for new technology). The new system will be called Windows 2000. The NT name will be retired.

The current version of NT--4.0--is only a few years old. In that short time, it has noticeably eaten into the market share of Novell's network software--NetWare, which for the moment dominates the network software field. Windows 2000 may spell the end of that leadership.

For the average user, a move to Windows 2000 is both good and bad. Although the new system is more stable than its predecessors, it will present a technical headache. To understand the nature of the headache, a bit of background is necessary. All the earlier versions of Windows were engineered to do double-duty--that is, run both Windows and DOS applications. The need to juggle both is one reason those earlier Windows versions haven't been as stable as many users had wished.

NT, on the other hand, never had such a burden. It was engineered specifically to run Windows, making it far more resistant to crashes or freeze-ups. Since Windows 98 will be the last of Microsoft's hybrid operating systems, the death of DOS may finally, after many premature announcements, be imminent.

What will that mean to the average user? If an office runs only Windows applications, upgrading to Windows 2000 is prudent. However, if you plan to run mission-critical applications on it, you may want to delay installing it at least until after the first or second service release--what Microsoft euphemistically calls its bug fixes. But don't procrastinate: Windows 2000 is a superior product for both standalone computers and networks.

If you're a diehard DOS application user or you can't find a Windows program that effectively replaces your favorite DOS application, be cautious about switching. Windows 2000 will not run all DOS programs. Before making a commitment, test your favorite DOS software on it first or check with Microsoft.

The new Windows operating system will come in three versions: the Professional (for the individual workstation), the Server and the Advanced Server (for networks). …

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