If I Buy an iPad , Can I Ditch My PC?

If I buy an iPad, do I still need my PC? As I travel around the country teaching courses about the iPad, I’m frequently asked this question. So my objective with this article is to help you better understand the role
the iPad and other tablets are beginning to play in business, as well as their relationship to the personal computer (PC) or laptop.
Let’s start by reframing the question. Instead, ask, “How can I use the iPad as a business tool?” The answer to this question will be a good indicator of whether or not you still need your PC. Consider your work tasks
Let’s begin with a review of your daily work tasks. Whether you’re a CPA in public practice or you work in a small or large business organization, review the list of daily activities below and ponder how they relate to your typical day. The list is not prioritized in any particular order.
  • Processing email messages
  • Browsing theWeb to research various types of information
  • Participating in meetings and taking notes, sometimes off-site
  • Reviewing reports and documents of all types, in both paper and electronic form
  • Marking up the documents you are reviewing
  • Talking on the phone
  • Creating a variety of spreadsheets to compile, analyze and report on financial information*
  • Working in your accounting, tax, payroll and other enterprise software to enter data and produce reports*
I’ve probably missed some key activities, so expand the list as it relates to your workday.
With the exception of the two items marked with an asterisk, the performance of every task listed above can be significantly enhanced with an iPad. Why? Because all of these tasks focus on communications or involve reviewing existing information in the form of documents, reports and Web content. The iPad (and the 300,000-plus apps that power this innovative device) does a superb job of handling these types of tasks.Behold the iPad advantage
Compared to the PC, the iPad (and similar tablet devices) is much better suited for automating the tasks listed for three key reasons:
  • It’s more portable
  • Lugging your laptop to meetings is often impractical and distracting. Just think about the last time you sat in a meeting in a sea of open laptop screens. Did you wonder if others were hiding behind their screen, or perhaps busy viewing Facebook pages?
  • It has a superior interface that facilitates easier annotation of documents
  • The iPad greatly reduces the communication barrier, and, if you’re a note taker, is far less distracting. Check out the standard iPad Notepad and Notability apps for paperless note-taking. Even in-house, moving around the office, a laptop is awkward. Not so with the sleek iPad, which even allows you to view and make simple edits to MS Word files and Excel spreadsheets using the popular QuickOffice Pro app and others like it
  • The device is fully prepped for video conferencing. Right out of the box
But don’t ditch your PC just yet
On the other side of the equation, when you need to use various software applications that require intensive data entry, using an iPad can be a real challenge. Yes, it can be done, but there’s a reason why the full-size keyboard and mouse have been around for such a long time. Preparing a tax return, entering journal entries, creating a five-year cash flow projection spreadsheet, and composing a business valuation report are all examples of tasks that will seem more cumbersome on an iPad than on a PC.
So, my bottom line answer to, “If I buy an iPad, can I ditch my PC?” is, don’t ditch the PC just yet. The iPad is rapidly becoming an indispensable business tool for every information professional, and nobody fits that description better than a CPA.
I’m completely convinced that every CPA, regardless of specific role, can justify the investment in an iPad. The question is whether the return on investment will come within six months or 12 months. For now, think of your PC as your production device and your iPad as your information-consumption device. They complement each other.
There’s no reason you can’t justify the investment in both an iPad and a PC. Never intended to replace the PC, the iPad is a significantly different device. It enhances our ability to get things done that the PC doesn’t accomplish as well. It’s simply a matter of form.

Unless you’re a salesperson

That said, there are many business people who heretofore have used a PC primarily for tasks the iPad handles more effectively. Those folks no longer need a PC. They are primarily consumers of information, rather than producers.Salespeople are a prime example. They’re mainly reviewing information such as inventory reports, product catalogs, websites and presentations, and managing appointments and contacts, and tracking meeting notes,
etc. Most salespeople would happily turn in their PC for an iPad. So, in order to answer the overriding question here properly, it’s important toknow who’s asking it.

Let’s ditch the question instead
My preference is to discard the question altogether. Focus instead on how the iPad can push you further down the paperless path. Over the past decade, CPA Crossings has helped hundreds of CPA firms and other businesses
make the transition to paperless processes. The most difficult hurdle is getting acclimated to viewing and marking up documents on a vertical monitor with a full-size keyboard and
mouse. Those devices are great for data entry, but not very natural for reading and marking up documents, such as reviewing a tax return.
I believe history will show that the iPad and other tablets served as the gateway to the paperless office. But don’t take my word forit; ask a CPA who has been using an iPad for a while.

By John H. Higgins, CPA. CITP, Strategic Technology Advisor, CPA Crossings, LLCJohn Higgins is a strategic advisor and is co-founder of CPA Crossings, LLC in Rochester, Michigan. He is a nationally recognized author and speaker, and advises CPAs on how to effectively leverage technology.

Visit www.cocpa.org  for a listing of webinars and seminars that CPA Crossings offering. Look for John’s new book, “Ten Steps to a Digital Practice in the Cloud,” published by the AICPA.

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