Microsoft in Biometrics Deal to Beef Up Security

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (05/02/2000) - Microsoft Corp. has reached into its very deep pockets to strengthen the security features of future versions of Windows by incorporating biometrics technology into the operating system.

The house that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates built -- and which the U.S. government wants to split into walk-ups -- announced today that it has bought biometrics technology from privately-held I/O Software Inc. for an undisclosed sum, and that the companies will collaborate to integrate the technology into Windows operating systems.

Biometrics systems use physical features, such as a fingerprint, to verify a user's identity, instead of relying on external data, such as passwords. This makes biometrics more convenient, safe and easy to use than traditional methods of user authentication, the companies said.

When fused with Windows, the technologies bought by Microsoft -- I/O Software's Biometric API (application programming interface) or BAPI technology and the SecureSuite authentication product suite -- will offer an alternative to current access control features such as passwords and smart cards, by adding iris, voice or fingerprint recognition, the companies said.

I/O Software already provides biometrics products for Windows, but as add-on components to the operating system that have to be installed separately, said Steve Wong, I/O Software's marketing manager in a phone interview today.

The deal announced today is expected to result in a complete integration of I/O Software's biometrics technology with Windows, so that the technology becomes part of the operating system, Wong said. The companies also plan to collaborate with hardware partners, since devices like scanners are needed to provide biometric authentication, he added.

When asked if Microsoft would eventually buy I/O Software, since the software giant has already bought SecureSuite, which is the company's flagship product, Wong said he didn't know. He also didn't know how today's deal will affect I/O Software's ability in the future to license its technology to makers of non-Windows operating systems.

Microsoft plans to include the technology with future versions of Windows, but it's not clear when that will be, the companies said.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, is at +1-425-882-8080, or at http://www.microsoft.com/. I/O Software, in Riverside, California, can be reached at 1-909-222-7600 or at http://www.iosoftware.com/.

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