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Bloomberg opens platform for third-party apps

Bloomberg's financial services can now get additional functionality from other parties

Bloomberg has launched an app portal that will allow subscribers of its financial information service to access additional third-party functionality, and even contribute apps of their own.

"Anyone in the world -- whether a member of the academia, a professional software company, or one of our clients -- can create custom applications that take all of the data we provide," said Claudio Storelli, who leads the team that developed the portal. "You have the tools to capture and productize an idea, and make it available to any user in the world with a Bloomberg terminal."

The basic Bloomberg subscription, which was originally accessed via terminals although now also comes as an Internet-connected software package, offers data, such as prices, statistics and news about securities. The service also provides some basic functionality, such as specialized calculators and trading capabilities. Bloomberg's service has about 310,000 subscribers.

The aim behind the Bloomberg App Portal is to extend this service with additional, specialized functionality that is integrated directly into Bloomberg's own resources. Thus far, the app portal hosts 40 apps, including ones for data analysis, portfolio management, risk analysis, data visualization, valuation and pricing.

Users might find the Bloomberg apps could simplify workflow. Workers in the financial community tend to run many applications simultaneously, often across multiple computer screens. Embedding more functionality into the Bloomberg services could reduce the number of different applications the user will have to run, as well as streamline the process of moving data across different applications.

A bank, for instance, may have 1,000 employees who share data across 3,000 spreadsheets, many populated with data from Bloomberg. The bank could build an app that could handle much of this number crunching within the Bloomberg service itself, simplifying administration by eliminating all these disparate spreadsheets. Or, a third-party financial software company could integrate its products within Bloomberg as a service to its customers. The users of the service can access these apps through the APPS<GO> option on the Bloomberg homepage. Apps are executed in the Bloomberg workspace on the user's computer.

Bloomberg is encouraging third-party developers to contribute to the portal, be they commercial software companies, lone developers or academicians with good ideas, or customers themselves.

Beyond making its own service more valuable to customers, Bloomberg also hopes that the portal spurs more innovation in the financial community. "Up until now, the financial services market has been really opaque and hard to break into for anyone who has a great idea," Storelli said. "This initiative will give the tools and the access to the financial community to anyone with a great idea."

The company has been working on this portal for more than a year, and has been running limited beta trials with customers for the past few months.

Bloomberg reviews all apps that are submitted, checking that they are secure, perform correctly and do not duplicate existing apps in functionality. Apps can be sold to customers -- Bloomberg takes a 30 percent cut -- or be distributed for free. Customers who upload their own apps can restrict usage to non-competing companies, to their own employees, or even within select departments within their organization.

To create Bloomberg apps, developers should use the Microsoft .Net platform and Bloomberg's API (application programming interface) to connect to the Bloomberg data and services.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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