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Microsoft banks on financial software

Hoping to get banks to sign on to Windows NT, Microsoft offers the source code for its financial-app toolkit.

One year after launching an initiative to get banks to run its Windows NT software, Microsoft hopes to boost that effort by giving source code for its financial toolkit to software developers creating financial applications.

Releasing Internet Finance Server Toolkit to developers and in-house programmers at financial institutions is but one prong in Microsoft's effort to woo banks and brokerage houses.

"A year ago we showed up with a vision about how banks could build a lower-cost infrastructure, make it easier for customers, and allow banks to preserve their investments in current technologies," said Mike Dusche, Microsoft financial services manager. "That was a vision--now we're moving forward into harvest mode."

Microsoft is releasing the source code to what was formerly called "Marble" because it doesn't want to build vertical applications itself but wanted to enable other developers or banks to innovate new features, Dusche said.

The Marble code, initially designed for Internet banking but being used elsewhere in the financial services industry too, comes with a resource kit for Windows DNAfs, as Microsoft calls its financial services framework, to help developers use it. Microsoft and about 40 partners also are working to define industry specifications to let applications talk to each other and to host mainframes.

But Marble isn't Microsoft's only news in the financial services arena this week. Yesterday the company announced that Citibank customers using its online banking service can download statements directly into Money 99, Microsoft's personal finance software. Money 99, which lags well behind Intuit's Quicken offering, gives users access to more than 530 banks and other financial institutions.

Earlier this week, TransPoint, a Microsoft online billing joint venture with First Data and Citibank, announced five new affiliates that will help banks connect to the TransPoint outsourcing service.

TransPoint also released a survey that found more consumers would prefer to pay bills at their bank's Web site than at other Internet venues.

Bill Gates launched the Windows DNAfs campaign for banks a year ago at the same trade show. In January, the effort was broadened to target securities firms and brokerages too.

Strategically, Microsoft's push into financial services takes on Sun Microsystems and IBM. Sun's workstations are widely used on trading floors and IBM, with historically strong ties to banks, is involved in a services joint venture called Integrion Financial Services with Visa and 18 large North American banks.