Most Wall Street firms' desktop computers run on a version of the Microsoft Windows operating system. Critical staff, from chief financial officers to traders, have long used Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet application to analyze market and transaction data, build financial models and track results.

But the software giant wants to move securities firms beyond viewing it principally as a provider of office productivity software and number-crunching worksheets. The firm has bolstered Excel so it can tackle at least 100 million rows of data at one time, and it has enabled securities firms' sophisticated analysis and trading applications to preside and run on its Azure cloud-computing service. The moves are examples of how the Redmond, Wash., firm is priming itself to be part of the digital foundation for the financial industry's moves toward consolidating technology systems and the flow of work between business units.

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