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XBRL Standard Begins to Proliferate

Amid a flurry of smaller announcements from the International XBRL Conference and Steering Board meeting in Berlin, Microsoft Corp. claimed to be the first major technology company to adopt Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), an XML-based framework for publishing financial results that was formalized in December 2001.

As companies increasingly adopt XBRL as a unified standard for financial reporting, it opens the door for greater checks and balances because XBRL allows greater interoperability for more powerful analysis and quicker discovery across all software formats and delivery channels. Those interested in seeing how Microsoft used XBRL can visit here to view second-quarter earnings results, first- and second-quarter 10-Qs and fiscal year 2001 10-K statement in XBRL.

XBRL uses tags based on standardized accounting industry definitions to describe and identify each item of financial information, such as net revenue. Tagging each financial item provides uniformity lacking in today's financial reporting. With its better, innate search capabilities, XBRL makes financial information more consistent and accessible without requiring companies to change the way they report financial results.

John Connors, chief financial officer at Microsoft, discussed the benefits of using XBRL at the conference.

"Using XBRL will help reduce financial reporting costs by eliminating redundancies in financial report production, reducing the potential for manual re-entry error, and streamlining the process of publishing our financial data to our stakeholders," Connors said.

The news also met with the approval of Mark Schnitzer, executive director and a member of equity research management at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

"With Microsoft's financial statements available in XBRL, industry analysts and investors in the future will be able to access in seconds information that previously might have required combing through numerous documents and manually keying into financial models," Schnitzer said. "We are looking forward to seeing more companies follow the lead of Microsoft by leveraging the advantages of XBRL in their regulatory filings, press releases and investor Web sites."

While it's certainly one of the biggest names to announce XBRL adoption (it's a charter member of the XBRL Consortium), it's hardly the only one. Germany's Deutsche Bank has begun using XBRL to process loan information and streamline its credit analysis process while Bank of America has begun to pilot XBRL for the same purpose in the U.S.

Also, business info provider EDGAR Online Inc. pledged to publish an XBRL newsletter dubbed XBRL SECrets, which will cover developments of interest to the professional XBRL community.