For nearly three decades, the flickering orange-on-black screens of the Bloomberg terminal have been omnipresent on Wall Street trading floors and executive suite desks, maintaining a vital lifeline of data and communication.
In knitting together the world of finance, those $21,000-a-year terminals have generated billions of dollars for Bloomberg, almost single-handedly paying for the company's journalistic ambitions, as well as the fortune, political career and philanthropic largess of its founder, Michael R. Bloomberg.
Now that golden egg — and all that it pays for — is in the cross hairs of new competitors looking to usurp its dominant position. Bloomberg has fended off competition before, but the latest upstarts are gunning for the company at a time when Wall Street is already aggressively looking to cut its spending on Bloomberg terminals.
Later this month, a start-up called Symphony, created by Goldman Sachs and backed by the large banks, is introducing software that provides an alternative to what many traders say is the most valuable part of the Bloomberg terminal — the chat program used by traders and investors.
At Goldman, more than half of the people who have Bloomberg terminals use them primarily for chat and other simple functions, according to people briefed on the subject who were not authorized to speak publicly.