IBM, Gemplus in smartcard agreement

IBM and Gemplus SA today signed a marketing, sales and development agreement, intended to help sell a combination of multifunctional smartcards, smartcard applications as well as all the surrounding hardware and transaction systems infrastructure. The two companies are also planning to take a joint approach to the development of Java specifications for smartcards. With a Java-based smartcard, users will be able to read information held on the card via use of a Netscape browser, provided there is a reader attached.

IBM and Gemplus SA today signed a marketing, sales and development agreement, intended to help sell a combination of multifunctional smartcards, smartcard applications as well as all the surrounding hardware and transaction systems infrastructure.

Although the agreement is nonexclusive - both companies already have various deals with each other's competitors - IBM and the French smartcard manufacturer will work together to ensure that the Gemplus smartcard operating system links smoothly with IBM's smartcard applications, a Gemplus spokeswoman said.

Each companies' value-added resellers will propose the other's products as part of an "end-to-end solution," although both will also offer a competitor's product where needed, representatives of the companies say.

IBM is looking at using smartcards with a number of electronic commerce applications, such as its Internet merchant server application Net.Commerce, says Daniel Perret, a London-based IBM spokesman. IBM is also working with its customers on developing smartcard "wallets" for making micropayments, he said.

The computer company previously announced that its NCs are set be equipped with smartcard readers by the end of the year. Since IBM is not in the business of manufacturing readers, the company may initially equip its NCs with Gemplus' readers, Perret says.

People will also be able to use Lotus Notes software to read information held on a smartcard - although currently cards only hold up to approximately four pages worth of text.

The two companies are also planning to take a joint approach to the development of Java specifications for smartcards. With a Java-based smartcard, users will be able to read information held on the card via use of a Netscape browser, provided there is a reader attached. Java-based cards should also open up smartcard application development to a larger pool of developers, Perret says.

Gemplus can be reached on the Web at www.gemplus.com/.

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