Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. said last week that they would work jointly to create a common framework for the "middleware" that banks rely on to bridge the gap between old and new computer systems.

The two companies said they would integrate Internet-based systems from Microsoft with a new Hewlett-Packard program for customizing financial applications. But their ambitions go beyond their own cooperation as they hope to influence a key part of the evolution of back-office technology.

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