Web Offers a WindowOnWallStreet

SAN FRANCISCO (04/19/2000) - Window On WallStreet Inc. nearly turned me into a day trader.

The Web service offers real-time stock quotes (on a customizable ticker), real-time portfolio updates, breaking news, screens and data on Nasdaq Level II, and an up-to-the-minute list of market leaders.

A subscription to WOW costs $79.95 per month ($69.95 per month if you sign a one-year contract.) That price is pretty low; other ticker services often cost hundreds of dollars monthly.

I tested WOW on Monday, April 3, the first trading day after the Microsoft settlement talks collapsed. Downloading and installing the required software took about 25 minutes on my 233-MHz Pentium with 64MB of memory and 56K modem.

WOW's browser window is divided into four panes: a real-time news ticker, a chart showing price movements of a single stock (or index), a tick pane showing each trade in a selected stock, and a list of current quotes for selected stocks and indexes.

You can set the chart pane to update at a variety of intervals ranging from tick-by-tick to yearly, and it displays both prices and moving averages. The news ticker pane, which uses COMTEX as its source, shows reports as they appear on the wire. WOW promises to add other news sources in the future.

Microsoft was the most active stock when I logged on, and even with the high activity, the WOW ticker kept up with Microsoft trading, updated my portfolio values continuously, and even produced on-line help screens (albeit somewhat slowly). WOW includes after-hours trades--a useful feature for professionals.

WOW offers Internet research, though it is mainly a summary of analyst research. Most of its sources seem to be MSN, which may give an appearance of bias. WOW also offers discussion forums, which allow anonymous postings. The site could do the serious investment community a service by insisting those who post messages also post their real name and company affiliation.

Good Stuff, Some Suggestions

Comments from three current WOW customers were highly favorable. One customer uses WOW's tick-by-tick transaction record to keep his broker honest.

Another customer noted the user interface is often clunky and not very intuitive, and I agree. I had to e-mail tech support to figure out how to change the real-time chart to a new company.

I tested e-mail customer service by sending questions to both technical support and "customer care" on a Saturday afternoon. Answers were sent to me about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

You can set up a number of different portfolios and have as many open at once as your computer (and Internet connection) can support. I found it fairly easy to create a portfolio, but somewhat more difficult to change the purchase price of a stock once it had been entered. WOW assumes you are buying the stock when you enter it into the portfolio and grabs the purchase price from the ticker.

However, since it's unlikely that your trade will actually execute at the tick price, you'll have to change the buy (or sell) price anyway. WOW could make it easier by simply leaving this blank.

WOW doesn't currently offer brokerage services, but it is in the process of merging with OnlineTradingInc.com. The deal, expected to be complete in May, will give traders access to a very powerful set of tools.

Mac, Linux, and Netscape users are out of luck, as WOW requires Windows 95, 98, or NT; at least a 166-MHz Pentium, 32MB of memory, 10MB of hard disk space, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later. WOW says it may add platforms if customers demand it.

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