The Nasdaq Stock Market Inc., Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) and Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday will launch a pilot program that allows companies to more easily communicate their financial information over the Internet and which helps investors more easily analyze this data.
The pilot program uses Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), a new platform developed for corporate reporting over the Internet and which is based on XML, the universal format for data on the Web.
With XBRL, data is tagged to instruct the system how to handle the data in question and enables the user to locate the necessary information without leafing through numerous financial reports, said Mike Willis, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The pilot program, designed by PwC and stored on Nasdaq hardware, provides access to XBRL data through Microsoft Office. This data will be accessible through the Microsoft Excel interface via a custom solution built by Dell Professional Services.
David Jaffe, the lead product manager for Microsoft Office in Redmond, Wash. told eWeek that XBRL and Excel had enabled "instant analytics" meaning that analysts could now access accurate information in real time using the tools they were already familiar with.
"Furthermore, the ability to analyze the data is incredibly rich. For example, analysts could compare the balance sheets side by side of three different companies in a matter of seconds or view footnotes on a specific area across multiple quarters for a specific company," he said.
Any interested individual or organization would simply use the add-in, which is accessed in the form of a freely downloadable Excel workbook for Microsoft Office. This would allow them to easily access and analyze the data, he said.
"Users can then request any available data on any of the companies in the pilot, which comes in the form of an XML-based Web service that is consumed by the Excel workbook. All of this is transparent to users. They just request the data and see it appear in Excel. Excel becomes a type of digital sandbox in which they can work with this financial information any way they want," Jaffe said.
Investors and analysts would thus no longer have to manually retrieve the data from individual financial documents.
The pilot program, whose goal is to showcase XBRLs ability to allow easy comparisons of the financials of companies within a particular industry, will provide investors with remote access to financial data from the financial reports of 21 Nasdaq-listed companies, starting with a companys most recent financials and going back five years.
The data is formatted in XBRL and publicly available via a Nasdaq-hosted Web Service.
The pilot will include financial information from, among others, Intel Corp.; Broadcom Corp.; nVIDIA Corp.; Altera Corp.; Microchip Technology Inc.; Marvel Technology Group Ltd.; QLogic Corp.; Applied Micro Circuits Corp.; Semtech Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
The Nasdaq will be actively recruiting Nasdaq-listed companies to participate in the pilot program, said Alfred Berkeley, the Nasdaq vice chairman.
The stock market was committed to increasing transparency for investors, which would "ultimately help restore investor trust in the quality and integrity of the information that fuels the markets," he said.
Microsofts Jaffe said the software firm was also a charter member of the XBRL consortium, which includes more than 170 of the worlds largest accounting, technology, government and financial services bodies devoted to developing and promoting XBRL.