Byte: Gates calms bankers' nerves

News that Microsoft was interested in banking provoked some knee- jerk reactions at a banking conference in New Orleans last week, but Bill Gates was quick to point out that his company was interested only in selling technology to banks, not entering the business. A tool-kit for building banking applications and specifically tailored versions of Windows Internet technologies, Windows Distributed interNet Applications for Financial Services (DNA-FS), are at the heart of the company's drive to win even more custom from an industry that already spends pounds 1bn a year on Microsoft software.

The potential to increase sales is vast. Edward Crutchfield, chairman and chief executive of First Union, opened the conference by suggesting that the banking business had evolved to the point where "technology is the product". First Union, the sixth-largest US banking company, currently spends $650m a year on technology. "We'll spend that much every year as far as the eye can see," he said.

Gates said that the DNA-FS framework will allow them to link customers on the Internet with their existing computing systems. "It allows legacy systems to stay in place but gathers information into a customer point of view," he said, going on to argue that Microsoft's banking framework would be analogous to a "digital nervous system", linking disparate computing systems within banks to each other and to a rapidly evolving Internet being accessed by assorted digital devices. "It lets all servers work together, not just Windows but also Unix servers," Gates said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has released the first upgrade to Internet Explorer 4. Version 4.01 contains bug and security fixes as well as extra keyboard commands and viewing features for disabled people.