12/06/04 — Hive Minded — While the world is well populated by Java-based smart cards, the debut of the first card based on Microsoft’s .Net technology, about which we report this week, presents network managers with yet another choice for security-based authentication and encryption.

Microsoft, for one, was quick to embrace the Cryptoflex .Net card made by Axalto, vowing to begin deploying the smart card for remote-access for its employees next year. This is yet another case of Microsoft eating its own dog food — the Seattle-based software giant is well known for a strong preference for its own technologies and has long made use of its own facilities and employees as a kind of captive audience for new ideas.

However, the .Net code used in the smart card was not written by either Microsoft or smart card provider Axalto. Rather, it originated with a small Berkeley, Calif., software firm, Hive Minded, formed back in 2002 specifically to program .Net in embedded devices.

Tim Wilkinson, the CEO of the firm — he says there are only two people working there at present — shared some observations about .Net smart cards. First off, Wilkinson pointed out there is no standard for .Net smart cards, but there should be.

“There’s no real standard for .Net on a smart card,” said Wilkinson, noting that while Hive Minded’s implementation may be the first, there will surely be more to come.

He said the model that Sun Microsystems used to shepherd a Java-card standard might be the right approach — that would mean Microsoft would take the lead in defining .the .Net card — but at any rate, something of the sort should be done. At present, .the larger Net technology as defined by Microsoft was pushed through the standards organization, ECMA, by Microsoft.

The reason that there needs to be a .Net smart card standard is that there are going to be interoperability issues down the road if developers don’t have a clear view of what a .Net smart card is, says Wilkinson.

As the first of its kind, Hive Minded’s .Net implementation on a card is the de facto standard. Hive Minded is working with other smart-card vendors, which Wilkinson said he wasn’t at liberty to name. And in the future, other software developers may get into coding .Net on smart cards as well.

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