In association with PricewaterhouseCoopers and The Nasdaq Stock Market, Microsoft plans to build the service into Microsoft Office.
The Web service makes use of the XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language) data format. This is designed to provide a standard way to represent data in business and financial reports. XBRL is a schema based on XML (Extensible Markup Language) and was designed with the intent of eliminating paper financial reports and replacing them with digital reports that can be delivered over the Internet.
The Web service is based on Microsoft's .net technology and allows a user to access over the Internet the quarterly and annual reports, also known as 10K and 10Q reports, of 20 semiconductor companies, as well as Microsoft's financial reports. The financial data can then be displayed in an Excel document using Excel 2000, or Excel 2002.
Through the .net Web service, Microsoft said users would be able to analyse financial data automatically rather than having to input data manually into a spreadsheet. For example, a user could automatically compare the total revenue for all 20 semiconductor companies by quarter and display a report in an Excel document.
Microsoft, Nasdaq and PricewaterhouseCoopers all are members of the consortium that is developing and maintaining XBRL. The consortium has attracted nearly 170 members, each of which deals with financial data to some degree. There are no major efforts under way to create a competing data format for XBRL, according to Microsoft.