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Comdex 2001: MSN Money becomes .Net service

Microsoft has unveiled a new .Net service, which merges the functionality of its MSN Money Web portal with that of its Money software, tailored to the needs of financial companies.

A test version of the new service, code-named MSN Money Professional, will be released early in 2002. It will be delivered as a packaged software version of Microsoft's finance Web site, and will allow users to build their own rebranded and customised finance portals.

MSN Money Professional will be available as a hosted service, delivered using the application service provider (ASP) model, with customer information maintained on Microsoft servers. Customers will also be able to use components of the service in their existing Web portals, with Microsoft managing only part of the data.

The new service incorporates the same news, stock information and financial management tools as the MSN Money Web site, but will eventually include Microsoft's developing set of Web services, called .Net My Services.

By the time a full version of the software is released in a year's time, financial advisers will be able to automate a number of services offered to their clients as well as offer new ones from Microsoft, such as group calendaring, instant messaging and notifications.

The software will let a financial adviser send analyst research reports directly to clients and fill in their Web-based calendars with dates, such as when companies report earnings or tax return deadlines.

Microsoft has signed up Advent Software, which specialises in building software applications for the finance industry, as its first test customer. Advent will use the new .Net-enabled software to build a Web-based application for its 6,500 customers. The company will initially roll out a password-protected Web portal, called WealthLine, which aggregates data from its own services as well as those from MSN.

Like all the other .Net services Microsoft is building, MSN Money Professional will rely on Microsoft's Passport authentication system to allow clients to access the service. However, many of the features that will be available with the software, such as completing stock trades and other financial transactions, will require an additional authentication service.

"We're anticipating customers will utilise Passport for the ID level," said Greg Nelson, a product manager with Microsoft's MSN Money team. However many large financial institutions will use their own authentication at the point of transaction, he added.

Microsoft plans to allow MSN Money Professional to be built into other software applications. The company is already planning to release a plug-in for its Outlook Express e-mail software, which will let MSN Money Professional customers deliver the Web service via e-mail.
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