As part of its plan to make Java run on any device with a microchip inside of it, Sun Microsystems (SUNW) will announce Tuesday that it has signed up companies in the emerging smart card market to power their systems with Java, CNET has learned.
At the Cartes 96 trade show in Paris next week, Sun's JavaSoft division will introduce an API (application programming interface) that makes it easier for a variety of companies, including card manufacturers, payment processing developers, and computer companies to develop smart card applications using Java.
At least 14 companies are expected to throw their support behind the initiative, including Visa International, one of the leading companies testing smart cards, according to industry sources.
Officials from JavaSoft declined to confirm or deny the details of next week's announcement.
Since it introduced the technology last year, Sun has shifted its efforts from making Java an element of Web browsers to a getting the technology incorporated into a range of everyday devices, such as PC operating systems, networks computers (NCs), and mobile telephones.
Smart cards could be another potentially critical step in expanding the number of Java-powered devices. Embedded with a tiny microchip, smart cards are being touted by Visa, Mondex, and other companies as cash substitutes that securely store money in the form of electronic impulses.
In addition to being used at points of sale, smart cards may also play an important role in online commerce, with vendors such as WebTV and Oracle pledging to incorporating card slots in their set-top boxes and NCs. Smart cards could also improve online security since they can be used to verify a user's identity.
But smart card applications are enormously difficult to create right now, as they require knowledge of proprietary development environments.
The Java smart card API could help boost the popularity of the cards by allowing developers to more easily create applications that run on multiple platforms, industry sources said.