Microsoft Corp. said last week that six major financial services firms have begun to install new computer networks based on the software giant's Windows NT operating system.

Citicorp, Keycorp, Merrill Lynch & Co., Charles Schwab & Co., Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., and Interstate/Johnson Lane all have committed to system projects based on Windows NT, officials said in New York during a financial services technology conference sponsored by Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft last week.

Windows NT is an offshoot of Microsoft's Windows graphical user interface, the basic operating software that has become standard equipment on the majority of personal computers using microprocessors from Intel Corp.

Introduced in 1993, Windows NT is aimed at large businesses building sophisticated networks of PCs, a method known as client/server computing.

While commercial banks are just beginning to deploy client/server technology on a wide scale, securities firms "are already on their second or third generation of the technology," said Michael Rawding, financial services group manager at Microsoft.

And although the vast majority of these early client/server systems on Wall Street were based on the Unix operating system, Mr. Rawding said the decisions by such industry luminaries as Merrill Lynch and Charles Schwab are clear signs that Windows NT is becoming a force.

For example, Merrill Lynch, the world's largest securities firm, will install Windows NT on all of its 700 branch-office computer "servers," as well as on over 25,000 desktop "client" PCs.

"Merrill Lynch's technology efforts are designed to help our people deliver their wisdom faster and more effectively to our clients," said John L. Steffens, executive vice president at Merrill Lynch. "We're anxious to capitalize on the breakthroughs Microsoft is making in the marketplace."

San Francisco-based discount broker Charles Schwab is deploying Windows NT-based systems in its six regional offices and 210 branches, replacing a Unix-based solution, Schwab officials said. They added that they expect to have more than 6,000 users on the new system by the end of next year.

Citicorp, which earlier this year selected Windows NT as a strategic computing platform for all its operations, is using the software in the development of its latest generation of automated teller machines and multimedia product information kiosks. Citicorp officials said they expect to install more than 10,000 of the NT-based devices over the next three years.

Cleveland-based Keycorp is using the Microsoft operating system as part of a massive upgrade of its branch automation system. The superregional bank also has selected application software from Olivetti Corp., called Mosaic OA, which works with Windows NT.

Keycorp currently has a pilot system up and running in four locations, and officials said they expect to have at least 200 of the bank's 1,400 branches converted by the end of next year.

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