Microsoft has released a mini operating system, which it claims will bring smartcards to the mass consumer market.
The platform will provide secure storage for security, loyalty and electronic purse smartcards within Windows 95 and 98 and NT 4.0 and 5.0.
At the Cartes 98 conference in Paris, Craig Mundie, senior vice president of the consumer platforms division at Microsoft, said: "With its easy integration into Windows we will target the very low csot smartcard market in both networked corporate environments and consumer electronics."
Mundie claims there is a lack of compatibility in the smartcard market right now. "We want to create a common framework for developers to work in," he said.
"It does not obligate other cards to be compatible, nor is it a silver bullet to sweep up other cards and say they are compatible."
Microsoft is planning to have products out next year with cards costing around $2-5. Rival Java cards and Multos cards come in at around $15-20, claims Microsoft.
"It is important to understand we are in different markets," said Mundie. "Java, for example, is an expensive 32-bit solution that hasn't been readily adapted yet. With an 8-bit card we really are taking a very practical approach."
Microsoft confirmed that it is planning a logo scheme on the card for developers. "They will have to meet minumum requirements to use it on the back of the card," said Mundie.
Philippe Goetsche, director of security products for the consumer platform, said that, as well as a corporate log-in IDs, dial-up network and Internet access log-ons, he also envisages that the smartcards will be used by schools and colleges to access the network and carry 'cafeteria cash'.
"Consumers will also have credit cards with smartcard details on , that will enable them to identify themselves to banks and brokerages online," he added.
Eventually, Microsoft expects the smartcards to be included in everything from WebTVs to home satellite to offer value added services and provide security and administration facilities in the home network.
Microsoft has already signed up 20 partners for its Smartcard for Windows platform, including ICL and Visa.
A spokesman for Visa, which is already working with Java, said: "Visa doesn't own an operating system so we'll be working with Microsoft and Java."
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