Microsoft is giving away source code in a bid to become the technology leader in Internet banking.
Just months after the leak of Microsoft's Halloween Document, which stated its opposition to open source software - the software giant has released the standard source code for its Microsoft Internet Financial Server Toolkit (MIFST).
The MIFST server allows banks to build applications that communicate with PC banking packages such as Microsoft Money and Intuit's Quicken, and online payment service Checkfree.
MIFST supports Microsoft's Open Financial Exchange (OFX) data format - a specification for the exchange of financial information.
In the Internet banking space, Microsoft competes with Integrion, a consortium of IBM and US banks, which has a rival specification called the Gold Standard.
Version 2.0 of MIFST supports a merged OFX/Gold standard. The MIFST code will be licensed for free to any software company that commits to support OFX and online banking.
Dave Ellington, systems architect at the Woolwich Bank, which uses the server, said: "By releasing the code, Microsoft is trying to make OFX the de facto standard."
The move was made at the end of last year but has been kept under wraps until now. Richard Horsfield, product manager for financial services at Microsoft, said: "We didn't want to announce it until partners and customers had access to the source code."
He added: "We don't want to develop specialised products for vertical industries."
Current versions of MISFT will continue to be supported, Horsfield said, but, "thereafter the developer would take over support of the product."
Rob Hailstone, research director of Bloor Research, said the move may not be a purely competitive one.
"It could be that Microsoft is cutting development costs, or that customers are demanding extra pieces all the time and it can't keep up."
For further stories see 4 March issue of Computing
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