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The best laptops of the year, and other tech stories you may have missed

By January 20, 2021January 21st, 2021No Comments

(This post originally appeared on Accounting Today)

Wells Fargo and partner on AP automation for SMBs, and nine other developments in technology from the past month, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.

Note: Some of these stories also appeared on

1. and Wells Fargo debut AP automation for SMBs

Wells Fargo and joined forces to create a feature to assist small and midsized businesses in gaining access to automation for accounts receivable and accounts payable processes. Bill Manager — the name of the feature — will take the cloud-based features in and integrate them into the digital services that Wells Fargo provides in order to help give access to paperless methods for payment while providing more control and ease of use for businesses. The partnership will help streamline workflow into a digital process while adding additional features such as electronically capturing and tracking invoices, to name a few. (Source: Pymnts)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This partnership continues the trend of banking and financial accounting applications moving closer and closer together. My prediction is that banks will ultimately provide their own accounting software, either self-developed or through acquisition of existing software platforms.

2. The best laptops of the year

Tech Radar — a consumer technology news and review site based in the U.K. — has revealed its picks for the top 15 laptops of the past year. The picks include laptops that have the most up-to-date mobile technology, the most cost-effective, efficient laptops, as well as two-in-one laptops, to name a few. Currently, the top pick for best overall laptop goes to the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) due to its long battery life, and fanless, silent design. Dell’s XPS 15 and HP’s Spectre x360 rounded out the top three. (Source: TechRadar)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: A great list from a very reputable source. If you’re planning on laptop purchases in 2021, this should be a good reference.

3. Two big battery tech advances

Two major battery technological advances have rolled out recently, with the first coming from QuantumScape, a Bill Gates and Volkswagen-backed startup. The startup recently announced that the “solid state” batteries created for electric vehicles will now be more efficient than other batteries made in the past. The new EV batteries will have the capability to hold greater power, charge quicker, and have a longer life. Additionally, researchers have recently created a battery that is rechargeable, flexible, and composed of silver oxide-zinc. This battery has a real energy density that is five to 10 times greater than current batteries and is easier to make than previous flexible batteries, which required very specific conditions. (Source: The Verge,UCSD News)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Battery tech is hot and you can expect that science will soon overcome the challenges of storing and using energy for all sorts of products, from vehicles to phones to machinery. These advances will allow us to avoid the problems of finding power and instead help us conduct business with less disruptions and more flexibility.

4. Microsoft Teams to get an overhaul

Microsoft announced changes and upgrades to calling features within Teams this past week, including updates to CarPlay support and the calling interface, to name a few. Some of these and additional features will be ready early next year. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Get your people ready. The new calling interface is now going to include calling history, voicemail, and a contact list in one location with hopes that Teams will be able to replace the traditional desk phone. Users will soon have the ability to transfer phone calls between desktop and mobile, allowing more mobility as many continue to work from home due to the pandemic. CarPlay will now also make it easier for users to make or answer calls using Siri.

5. SMB HR solution provider raises $15M

Bambee, which provides HR solutions for small and midsized businesses, shared that it has raised $15 million. Launched in 2016, Bambee provides an experienced HR manager to small and midsize businesses who otherwise did not have one. The goal is to help reduce the often contentious relationship that can be the result of businesses lacking an HR strategy or expertise. Bambee plans to use the funding to expand its offerings in order to help more businesses. (Source: AIThority)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The majority of SMBs in the United States do not have a qualified, professional HR manager, typically due to the high cost. Bambee is one of a growing number of HR platforms that are providing lower-cost tools to help small businesses behave more like big businesses, particularly in this era of more regulation.

6. Amazon adds Live Translation to Alexa

Amazon announced a new update which will add to Alexa’s skills, including the ability to translate in real time between Brazilian Portugese, Italian, Hindi, French, German, Spanish and English. Rolled out in November, the Live Translation update allows users to simply ask Alexa to translate a language while providing a display of the translated transcript on Echo Show device screens as well. In addition to the new update, modifications were made so Alexa is able to more accurately identify natural pauses and sentence breaks in conversation. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Google’s had this for a while. Microsoft has also had these features in Skype/Teams. Now Amazon is offering translation on the go, just by speaking to an Alexa device. Voice technology will be an enormous game-changer for small businesses over the next few years, allowing employees to get tasks done and customers to request information just by speaking … and now speaking (and being understood) even if the request is not being made in English.

7. Google to support Chrome OS on old PCs

Google obtained Neverware, a company that has provided PC users with the ability to turn their machines into Chromebooks or Macs through their CloudReady software. With the acquisition, Google will begin to implement plans in order to make CloudReady available as a formal Chrome OS rollout. With the transition, users will be able to effortlessly update their software and will be provided with Google support for CloudReady, just like Chrome OS users get. According to the announcement, Google will recognize any current licenses that span over several years and there are also no plans to change prices. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This is also a potential game-changer for small businesses, particularly those on a budget. Think of it: You’ve got an old Windows or Apple machine, and instead of tossing it, you turn it into a Chromebook. By doing so you’ll be able to realize very similar functionalities for a much lower hardware investment.

8. Hologram machine projects life-size in full color

PORTL — a hologram device that is able to project holograms in full color and in their actual size — is being touted as the first of its kind. The new device has the capability to beam live and pre-recorded holograms in 4K. This opens up the possibilities of hosting live concerts all over the world, creating elaborate displays throughout theme parks, individuals delivering speeches or presentations, and the ability to have real people act as guides through art exhibits or museums. Currently PORTL devices, which cost $60,000 each, are popping up all over the globe in airports, museums, and malls. (Source: Intelligent Living)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: It’s kind of like the next best thing to actual teleportation. You’re there, in amazing clarity and color, but you’re not really there. As costs come down and the technology improves, then say goodbye to your conference room’s video calling system. Now you’ll have your remote people’s real-life holograms joining you, just as if they’re there.

9. Amazon Web Services reveals cause of major outage

Many AWS operations were impacted last month by an outage that happened in the Northern Virginia region after additions were being made to the capacity of its Kinesis servers, which are used by additional AWS platforms such as Cognito and CloudWatch as well as developers. While the capacity addition set off the outage, it was not the sole reason for it. As capacity was being added, the front-end fleet servers started to exceed the amount of threads permitted by the system and — when the maximum was reached — the trigger started a domino effect creating the outage. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Just to remind you, big brands like Netflix, Twitch, LinkedIn and Facebook — and many others — rely on AWS to deliver their cloud-based products and services. It’s an $8 billion business for Amazon and a major part of the company’s future strategic plans. And yet, even with all that Amazon money, resources and technical know-how … it still went down. The cloud is powerful. But it’s also not infallible.

10. The COVID-19 bill included contentious copyright measures

Congress approved a new COVID-19 relief package last month but not without including a highly contended copyright bill titled the CASE Act. According to the act, internet users illegally streaming for profit could be charged with a felony and fined $30,000. The bill appears to target individuals who profit from their illegal streaming services, but the bill doesn’t necessarily hold accountable Twitch streamers who potentially use work that is unlicensed as part of what they stream. Additionally, the bill will allow designers and artists to make copyright infringement challenges without the need to federally open a case. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The new provisions may add extra liabilities for your firm or your clients’ businesses for using copyrighted material — unknowingly or unknowingly — on websites or on social media platforms. On the other hand, the bill is also providing more protections if others are doing the same with your copyrighted material.

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