March 18, 1996 1:00 PM PST

Microsoft gets serious on home banking

Microsoft today formed an online banking division the better to compete with Intuit, a company it not so long ago wanted to make its own.

The software giant hosted a conference today with 200 bankers and banking-solution providers to unveil its online financial strategies and services based on the Microsoft Money application--a piece of software that Microsoft wanted to unload on Novell in favor of Intuit's Quicken during merger negotiations last year.

But now that the proposed merger is ancient history--the victim of a threatened antitrust suit against Microsoft from the Department of Justice--the company is trying to distance itself from the transactions network used by Intuit's personal finance empire of some 9 million customers.

Microsoft announced a software and networking standard called Open Financial Connectivity, which will let banks set up new online connections to customers who use Money.

Microsoft has already struck deals with several banks to get Money into customer's hands, but until now, banks have had to rely on Intuit's subsidiary, the Intuit Services Corporation, to set up the actual dial-up connections. The new subsidiary will help banks establish connections with customers via the Internet, a bank's private network, or an online service.

Microsoft also outlined plans to let customers make secure account transactions by the end of the year through a bank's Web site. This will mean that customers who don't own any personal finance software will still be able to check accounts, transfer funds, and do other transactions online. Analysts expect that the availability of Web-based transaction services will greatly expand the popularity of home banking.

Intuit, for its part, also has plans for Web-based banking services that are supposed to materialize in the second half of the year.
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