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Does Yahoo's financial Webcaster favor Microsoft?

Although the Web giant is promoting its new FinanceVision service as a major destination for financial information, it has released a beta version only for Microsoft Windows.

Yahoo is being choosy about who can see its new FinanceVision Webcasting service first.

Although the Web giant is promoting its product as a major destination for online financial information, it has released a beta version of FinanceVision only for Microsoft Windows.

The specifications on FinanceVision's preview page indicate that while the software can run on AOL's Netscape browser, people must have Internet Explorer to complete the initial installation. The specs also call for Microsoft's Windows Media Player 6.4 or above but say nothing about RealNetworks' RealPlayer or Apple Macintosh systems.

Yahoo is not the first company to offer a sneak peek at software for Windows alone. Because the operating system is so widespread, companies often prepare Windows-only previews of products to get the most bang for the buck.

"It's the easy way to do it. You go for the largest installed base, and that's Wintel," said Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, referring to computers running the popular Windows operating system-Intel processor combination. "Microsoft gives you all the tools, and it's easy to develop for the platform."

Yahoo FinanceVision is software that incorporates video and audio streaming, personalized stock quotes, and Web browsing into one product. Yahoo will stream its own content over the service--a departure for the portal, which until now has relied on other companies' content.

Does this make Yahoo a likely Microsoft ally?

In December last year, rumors swirled that Yahoo Broadcast, which streams media for radio stations and businesses, was considering dropping RealNetworks for rival Microsoft's Windows Media as its preferred technology.

Sources at the time said that Yahoo was considering creating its own streaming media player powered by Microsoft's technology, or that it would maintain its relationship with RealNetworks in a limited capacity.

Earlier this year, though, Yahoo announced it would continue its relationship with RealNetworks.

A Yahoo representative would not comment on any technology issues related to Yahoo FinanceVision. But at the bottom of the preview Web site is an icon promoting Windows Media.

Although the company is keeping mum about its plans, history shows that Yahoo has supported software outside the Microsoft family. When Yahoo last year unveiled Yahoo Companion, a toolbar for Yahoo services, it initially launched the product only for Internet Explorer. Eventually, though, the company launched a Netscape-compatible version.

Still, Jupiter's Pidgeon said that companies releasing new software should be more inclusive with their previews. Especially from a company like Yahoo, which has trumpeted its neutrality, inclusiveness would pay off in the end.

In addition, given the renewed popularity of Apple's products, such as the iMac, shying away from supporting the Macintosh operating system may not be a good long-term move, Pidgeon said. Last quarter, Apple reported an operating profit of $178 million thanks to robust PC sales.

"In the future they'll be taken to task," Pidgeon said about Yahoo. "The Macintosh audience is growing bigger and growing fast."