Ultramobile Accounting Workstation
By Alex Vuchnich, CPA, CFE -
If you have read my previous post on the AT&T Tilt smartphone, you will no doubt know of my passion for productivity when it comes to mobile computing solutions. Having spent most of my career working at remote client offices or on the road I am always in search of better mobile productivity solutions. Netbooks are all the rage right now and I have looked at numerous options in this area. One device I landed on was the Red Fly Mobile Companion. This device is unique in that unlike the other netbooks which are essentially stripped down laptops, the Red Fly is really a USB peripheral for a smartphone. It uses the functionality and hardware present in a windows mobile device and then extends it onto an 8" screen and full keyboard. This provided an intriguing solution for me. There are already several good hardware reviews available for the device so I will focus on how I use this in practice.
To answer the most important question first: Yes, the Office Mobile version of Excel is actually quite workable with this device. You can get around 11-12 columns to fit the screen. This is a huge improvement over trying to work off the smartphones 2-3" display. Also Internet browsing using the Red Fly is an enjoyable experience. It supports both Pocket Internet Explorer and Opera Mobile both of which rendered web pages similar to what I expect on a full fledge PC or laptop. The full keyboard makes replying to emails while on the go a simple process. Two additions I use with my Red Fly are a wireless USB mouse and 10-key combo. The mouse makes navigation a breeze and the 10-key helps with everything from working with spreadsheets to dialing contacts.
My main applications using this device while away from the office are:
- Working on or reviewing spreadsheets
- Accessing the Internet (the real internet, not the scaled down mobile one)
- Power point presentations
- Replying to email and IM
- Remote Desktop to my main office computer for access to CRM and other network applications
- Writing articles/blogging on the go
For an auditor out in the field for weeks at a time, this device is not going to cut it. Those individuals will want to stick with tried and true desktop replacements. But I can see this being an excellent solution for partners and managers who may have light computing needs in the field. As an ending thought, one of the most valuable benefits from this device might be the built in security. Since all the storage and processing is done on the smartphone, if the Red Fly is ever stolen, you can sleep soundly knowing that no confidential client data has been lost (assuming that they don't steal your smartphone too, of course).