Smart cards look set for a brighter future, with both Microsoft and Netscape lining up to incorporate the technology into their software.
Last week Microsoft introduced a Software Developer's Kit (SDK) providing APIs which will enable developers to build support for smart card technology into applications for Windows 95, Windows NT and the forthcoming Windows 98 operating system.
The kit will support smart cards at the device-driver level for hardware, and will enable developers to write applications enabling such functions as Internet commerce.
The SDK is available now for download from the Microsoft web site (www.microsoft.com).
As part of the initiative, Microsoft has signed up 11 hardware manufacturers to support smart cards on Windows, including IBM, Siemens Nixdorf and long-time smart card champion Hewlett-Packard.
In a statement, Microsoft claimed its move means "corporate customers can invest in smart-card solutions now with the confidence that they can take advantage of interoperable products from a broad range of vendors".
Netscape is also moving to promote smart card technology, which is likely to be used mainly in the fields of Internet commerce and security.
The company unveiled a series of added functions for its Communi-cator client package which will enable the browser to work with smart card hardware.
This is also available for download from the firm's web site home.netscape.com).
The focus of Netscape's strategy is firmly on security. The company is supporting the RSA Public Key Cryptography Standard (PKCS11), which will also provide the browser with the ability to take alternative hardware tokens which use digital certificates. Such certificates have traditionally been located on users' local hard drives, meaning they could only take advantage of the security the certificates offer from their own machines.
Support for the RSA standard means users can use their certificates remotely with smart cards or tokens, when accessing the web through the Netscape browser.
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