Microsoft gets smart

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Microsoft gets smart

Microsoft next month will begin selling its Windows operating system for smart cards – credit card-sized devices that contain microchips that store personal and financial data.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is forming alliances with makers of software, chips, and cards and offering low prices to compete with Sun Microsystems’ Java programming language. Windows cards will cost issuers about $3 each, while Java-based cards are closer to $20, Microsoft officials said.

Smart cards are used in portable devices to make online transactions and authorize access to computer networks. Though popular in Europe, the U.S. market has lagged due to the lack of card readers and the widespread use of credit cards. Experts predict over the next five years, the number of smart cards used around the world will jump 15-fold, from the current 400 million to 6 billion.

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