Ballmer Details Smart Card Role in .Net Plan

SAN FRANCISCO (06/29/2000) - Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer and President Steve Ballmer Thursday said smart cards will play an important role in Microsoft's .Net initiative, providing a secure way to access networks and the Internet.

"As we move to a Web-based lifestyle, authentication and security become critical," Ballmer said, addressing a partisan crowd at the second annual Smart Card Business Development Conference, which takes place this week at a Microsoft conference center in Bellevue, Washington.

"Smart cards are an enabling technology in the Microsoft .Net vision, providing an affordable and effective way to increase the security of computing. We believe the demand for smart cards is just emerging and will grow exponentially," Ballmer said in prepared remarks that were released by Microsoft.

Microsoft .Net is a wide-ranging initiative unveiled last week to provide development tools, applications and services that will allow companies to offer new types of services over the Web. Many IT observers see the effort as an attempt by Microsoft to retain its dominance in the industry, as the focus of computing moves away from PCs and towards the Internet and other types of devices.

Smart cards are credit-card sized devices that contain a computer chip and can store information about users. More commonly seen in Europe than in the U.S., they can be used to provide secure access to computers, computer networks, or buildings.

Microsoft announced Thursday that Windows for Smart Card Toolkit 1.1, with support for the GSM (global systems for mobile communications) telecom standard, will be released to developers "soon." The toolkit will allow GSM operators and phone makers to create smart card applications, including commerce applications for their mobile phones.

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s chairman and CEO, Scott McNealy, has been one of the strongest advocates of smart cards, and Microsoft's Windows technology is competing with Sun's Java programming language for the attention of smart card makers.

The General Services Administration (GSA), a U.S. government agency that provides support services to the federal government, recently made the largest commitment to smart card technology in the U.S. to date, Ballmer said. The GSA awarded a contract to five high-tech firms that will be worth about US$1.5 billion over 10 years to provide smart cards for federal workers.

Also at the conference, healthcare firm Lifestream Technologies Inc. demonstrated its Privalink system, which uses smart cards to transfer medical records between doctors and patients, or to upload health records on the Web.

The system includes a home cholesterol kit fitted with a smart card reader, which is awaiting approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or via the Web at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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