Information services and news giant Bloomberg unveiled a new graphical user interface for its customers earlier this week. The project, estimated to be worth tens of millions of pounds, goes to the heart of the Bloomberg business - delivering complex market and financial data to customers in real time.
It is Bloomberg's biggest in-house technology project for at least five years, as predicted by Computer Weekly.
The new Windows-style interface, called Launchpad and scheduled to go live this summer, will make it easier for customers to view and analyse multiple data feeds on the desktop from the company's main service, Bloomberg Professional. It will give heightened functionality by providing greater access to a greater range of market instruments, such as bonds and equities, the company said.
Bloomberg customers will receive the new interface free of charge. It will be installed on the desktop, as an optional feature. Customers had complained that the old interface was too "clunky" and that moving information out of the Bloomberg screen frame was awkward.
In 1995, Bloomberg launched a proprietary application program interface to help users to transfer Bloomberg data into spreadsheets and other applications.
Some industry observers have also argued that the Bloomberg information service was not as flexible and user-friendly as its arch-rival, Reuters.
The Internet has revolutionised the distribution of data in financial markets but the most sophisticated data feed is of only limited use unless it is easy to read and analyse the information.
"We think this dramatically increases the value-for-money from Bloomberg," said Russel Levi, head of sales for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America at Bloomberg. "We are creating a new environment to display all our data."
Analysts were more cautious, however. Although the new interface was a significant improvement on its predecessor it was also well overdue, and not particularly innovative, they said.
"The main thing that strikes me is that this is something they should have done years ago," said Daniel Mayo, lead analyst for the financial services group at Datamonitor. "A lot of bank trading floors have been demanding more flexible trading systems."
The biggest benefit for Bloomberg customers will be the ability to take real-time and historical data from different sources and integrate it with their applications, he said.
The principle is similar to Microsoft's .net technology philosophy, in which software is delivered as a service over the Web and business functions are broken down into inter-operable components. Reuters has worked closely with Microsoft to develop services like instant messaging and make its systems as open as possible, added Mayo.
Reuters has also thrown its weight behind the open source operating system Linux. Last month it announced that it would build a market data system that incorporates Red Hat Linux.
Earlier this month Reuters also announced that it would provide traders with software tools to directly connect with stock exchanges through its flagship product, Reuters 3000 Xtra.
Mayo added that Bloomberg's record on developing innovative technology in-house has not been one of its strong points. "Bloomberg is strong on business applications and data management but weaker on technology development," he said.