Microsoft is developing a Web development platform for banks and other financial institutions, codenamed Marble, enabling them to create their own custom-built online services environment.
Marble is based on the Open Financial Exchange (OFX) specification, jointly developed by Microsoft and Intuit, to enable consumers using PC-based software such as Microsoft Money to exchange data electronically with financial packages running on a finance house?s Windows NT-based Web server.
The initial OFX draft specification covers online banking transactions and brokerage statement look-up and is supported in the latest versions of Money and Intuit?s Quicken and QuickBooks packages, but future versions will deal with brokerage trading, CMA and 401(k) information.
Don McGill, Microsoft?s Marble product planner, said: ?Many of the banks, brokerage houses and mutual fund managers we talked to said they wanted users to be able to access account data via the Web and so we decided to give them the tools necessary to build their own custom Web sites. OFX forms the basis of how to undertake data exchange between banks, which is, of course, at the heart of online banking.?
Marble will comprise an OFX Server, Web-based development tools, and the OFX-based client.
The server comprises an OFX gateway for undertaking batch transactions and linking the server to the financial institution?s back end system, a Proxy Server for security purposes and set-up, configuration and systems management tools and documentation.
The client includes self-configurable ActiveX controls to deal with such online banking functions as paying bills and checking account statements, and customisable templates for building Active Server Web pages and adding corporate logos.
Basic Web development tools will be provided for users to build additional ActiveX and Active Server controls and Java applets.
Marble is expected to move into beta by the end of July and to ship in the US by September. It will be targeted mainly at banks.
Version 2.0 of the product, which has yet to be named, will include internationalisation features, but will not ship in Europe until the middle of next year. It will also provide additional functionality to make it more suitable for brokerage and mutual fund houses.
Future versions will also integrate with products such as Microsoft?s Merchant Server and Transaction Server to enable financial institions to sell their financial products and services over the Web.
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