Microsoft Corp. recently launched a .Net Web service in association with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and the Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. that will enable investors and analysts to access financial data stored on the Internet and analyze that data using Microsoft Office.

The Web service makes use of an industry standard data format called XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language), which is being developed as 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 trio launched the Web service as a pilot program. It is based on Microsoft’s .Net technology and allows a user to access over the Internet the quarterly and annual 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, the version of the software included in Office XP.

Developers tackle Web services

Analysts at a recent developers’ conference in Sydney identified several issues that developers and companies need to get to grips with before attacking IT projects using Web services.

These include immature standards, security and a need to build software components that are reusable, loosely coupled and highly scalable to deal with the unpredictable demands of doing business on the Internet. Questions of developer re-training arise and the complication of whether to build using the competing J2EE or Microsoft’s .Net platforms. While the core standards of Web services – Internet protocols like HTTP, XML language and the XML-based SOAP messaging protocol – are now widely accepted and likely to be implemented uniformly, others such as WSDL, UDDI and various security standards may not. However, the standards are “doing really well,” says Sydney-based Meta Group senior analyst Kevin McIsaac, speaking at the Asia-Pacific Borland Conference, even if many areas are still missing. This is because vendors are cooperating on interfaces and standards – one of the few occasions in the history of computing.