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Microsoft is in the money

Microsoft and Unisys team up in the online banking business, giving yet another boost to the Redmond, Washington-based software titan's Money 97 product.

Microsoft (MSFT) and Unisys (UIS) today announced that they are teaming up in the online banking business, giving yet another boost to the Redmond, Washington-based software titan's Money 97 product.

The two companies have launched "a mutual marketing arrangement." Microsoft will bring Money 97 and other software that runs on Windows NT operating system to the relationship. Unisys will help commercial banks build and deliver home banking services by integrating their existing systems with the Microsoft products and the Open Financial Connectivity specification, the companies said.

Karen Epper, an analyst at Forrester Research called the agreement merely "the next step in Microsoft's manifest destiny."

Unisys joins dozens of national and international banks and software vendors that have already lined up behind the Microsoft Money 97 product. Barclay's Bank, Wells Fargo, and Hong Kong Shanghai Bank are among the financial institutions supporting the product. And, Edify, Visa Interactive, and Checkfree have said they will use the software to build services for banks.

Yesterday, another company, Digital Insight that provides Web banking service to about two dozen commercial banks, announced its own plans to offer its clients the option of downloading account information to Money 97.

Despite Microsoft's success signing up Money 97 supporters this year, many commercial bank officials and consumers have expressed concerns about the security of banking online. And, some bankers suggest the online services make them more work and higher operating costs.

Epper dismisses the complaints as the growing pains of a new technology. She expects fast-growing demand to make room for a number of companies and an array of services. Prices, too, will fall as companies converge on the market and thwart Microsoft's attempt to dominate it, she said.

According to Forrester's estimates, members of some 1.1 million households will be connected to online banking services by the end of this year. The figure will nearly double by the end of 1997 and mushroom to 9.7 million by the end of 2001.