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Microsoft targets financial services

The software giant touts plans for its first set of tools designed to help banks and other financial institutions process payments and conduct transactions entirely online.

Microsoft on Monday announced plans for its first set of software tools designed to help banks and other financial institutions process payments and conduct capital markets trading entirely online.

The new product, called BizTalk Accelerator for Financial Services, is a component of Microsoft BizTalk Server, software designed to help companies link different computing systems together to share data and conduct transactions.

BizTalk Server, first released in late 2000, is one of Microsoft's growing stable of .Net Enterprise server products, which includes the Exchange e-mail software; the SQL Server database for storing and collecting corporate and Web site data; and the Commerce Server for building e-commerce Web sites.

Accelerator for Financial Services enables electronic messaging between financial institutions, with more than 90 standard online forms for payments, foreign exchange, securities trading and reporting. Conducting financial transactions entirely online--straight-through processing in banking parlance--reduces costs and errors, Microsoft said.

The messaging specifications use XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for data exchange, and are compliant with financial industry standards for e-commerce from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications and the International Securities Association for Institutional Trade Communication, Microsoft said.

With BizTalk, Microsoft competes against software makers BEA Systems, IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Tibco, Vitria, WebMethods, SeeBeyond and others in the growing market for integration software.

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To take advantage of the global data communication infrastructure of the Web, more companies are designing computer systems that easily link to their customers, suppliers and partners via standard Internet protocols.

Microsoft plans to make BizTalk Accelerator for Financial Services available by the end of the year. Pricing starts at $5,000 per central processing unit (CPU). BizTalk Server, a required component, starts at $7,000 per CPU.