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An 'Accelerator' for XBRL

Microsoft and EDGAR Online , an online distributor of Securities and Exchange Commission documents, are teaming up in order to help companies eliminate the need to re-enter financial data about public companies into Excel spreadsheets.

At the XBRL International Conference in Seattle, Microsoft and Edgar Online gave attendees a peek of its pre-release version of Microsoft's Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language). The program is expected to be available for Office 2003 users by the first quarter of 2004.

Peter Rinearson, vice president of the Information Worker New Markets group at Microsoft, said the Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL would allow people to more easily author and analyze financial documents using Microsoft Word 2003 and Microsoft Excel 2003.

XBRL is an emerging XML-based standard that permits the automatic exchange and reliable extraction of financial information across all software formats and computing platforms. It uses XML data tags to describe financial information for public and private companies and other organizations. XBRL is available to license royalty-free worldwide from XBRL International.

During the XBRL conference Wednesday, Microsoft gave a public demonstration of the Alpha version of its Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL and distributed pre-release code for the Accelerator to all attendees.

For its part, EDGAR Online said it plans to extend Accelerator's capabilities by utilizing XML Web services in order to allow companies to seamlessly extract, dissect and review financial information contained in EDGAR Online's information repositories directly from within Microsoft Excel 2003.

Jay Sears, a spokesman for Edgar Online, told internetnews.com that the new service will revolutionize the way companies author and analyze financial data. "What the alliance does is deliver Edgar Online data in the Excel application in a seamless, clean way," with XBRL tagging, he said.

"If you talk to a financial analyst, he or she will scream about the amount of time it takes to re-key data into Excel spreadsheets." XBRL helps make the data smart, he added.

Microsoft unveiled its Office Solution Accelerator program in September. It aims to help customers take existing Microsoft applications and systems and use them to streamline organizational tasks.

For example, as reported in October, Microsoft took the wraps off an Office Solution Accelerator for Recruiting. The package helps companies' human resource departments streamline their hiring process by automating the interview-scheduling process with job candidates. The company said it also helps capture interview feedback and provide interview managers deep visibility into interview feedback in order to expedite the hire/no-hire decision.

Now, the company has provided an Alpha build of Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL. The program in this case is helping to eliminate the collection phase of the financial data and the input phase into an Excel spreadsheet. The goal is to help analysts spend more time analyzing or making decisions about the data instead of collecting it and inputting it.

In a related development, PR Newswire and Reuters joined with a group of companies, including Microsoft, Bowne, and SunTrust Banks, in a project to drive more widespread use of XBRL in the corporate reporting supply chain.