Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 25 seconds

 Steve Zelman, Thomson ReutersMany users clearly want to have mobile devices interface with tax research platforms. But what exactly do they want to do? And just how well do smartphones and tablets function in meeting those desires. And will the purchase of targeted apps become a preferred way of buy research and other apps?

It's still early in the game, but some trends are obvious, according to the vendors who market the research products.

"The research experience you have in an office is very different than the experience you have on the go," says Tina Rajski, a CCH product manager. Despite that, CCH sees a change in what users want from its IntelliConnect platform when accessed via mobile devices. They have gone from looking for answers to specific questions, to a more general research approach.

"Users a year ago were saying ‘I only what to get the rates, I don't want to get the [Internal Revenue] Code,'" she says. Now, "Users are relying on mobile devices to load all their research when they are out and about." Out and about can also mean away from the desk while in their offices.

Generally, it is necessary to separate discussion about research to the work done on tablets versus when it is performed on a smartphone

"We found they had a real need, but somewhat limited need to do research in this case I'm talking just smartphones," says Steve Zelman, an SVP of product platforms at Thomson Reuters." People on smart phones were not interested in typing a lot of information. Zelman emphasized that uses do not want to spend a lot of time typing. , "Clicking and linking rather than real word searching; we find that people like that," he says.

One area that distinguishes the approaches the two research giants have taken is the use of apps. CCH is seeing user interest in have several apps on a smartphone simultaneously to perform different functions. Zelman says Thomson's tools aren't apps to begin with; but provide an entry for logging on to the platform. That is changing with a few apps on the horizon. "Over the next two months, we are coming out with a series of little calculator apps," says Zelman.

Rajski puts a different perspective on the reception to apps from CCH customers. "We have seen a change in how customers consume content. It is very common for people to have two or three different apps."

The prevalence of specific apps that can be downloaded from a web store is having an impact in many areas of software. Last week, Shirley Singleton, CEO of Edgewater Technology, which owns a Microsoft reselling business, discussed that impact during her company's 2012 earnings webcast. "I'm not sure anyone truly understands the influence of Apple and other platforms that allow you to download apps," Singleton said. She continued that was influencing her company's customers when it come to purchase very large applications such as policy administration systems for the insurance industry.

Some users would rather purchase downloadable elements such as an application for whole life insurance and then an annuity application and continue in stages than go for a entire platform, she said. While that kind of insurance application is not the same as the research platforms marketing in the tax and accounting space, Singleton's observations are similar to those made by Rajski.

However, Zelman disagrees that a customer move towards smaller apps is going to fundamentally change the sale of research products. Thomson has preferred another route for delivering content - the use of ebooks via its ProView ereader platform. It is available for iPad users.

CCH has several focused apps available including CCH Code & Regs 2013, CCH Applicable Federal Rates and 2012 CCH Tax News Highlights, all offered on the iPad, iPhone and Android.

Rajski says customers often use these in combination. For example, a user might have the CCH Mobile and ProSystem fx Mobile Apps or a combination of the eFile Status) App along with the Tax News Highlights and Code and Regs Apps, enabling them to check those resources via the separate apps.

Thomson's ebooks, as the name suggests, are electronic versions of publications from the company, the kinds that are still available on paper. These include PPC's Guide to Compilation and Review Engagements and its Guide to Preparing Financial Statements and RIA's Internal Revenue Code and Federal Tax Regulations.

Zelman described his company's approach as "Rather than take something generic that's already available on the web, we have created our own ebook platform that allows us to do things you can't do anywhere else."

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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