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Sun plans Java ID cards for PCs

A Sun Microsystems executive says the company's Java Card technology, which is used to identify millions of mobile phone users, is headed for PCs.

SAN FRANCISCO--Sun Microsystems' Java Card technology, which is used to identify millions of mobile phone users, is expected to come to PCs as well, a Sun executive said.

Java Card is a standard for tiny computers that fit into credit cards or the subscriber identity module (SIM) cards in many cell phones. The computers can run Java programs such as checking a password needed to unlock a mobile phone.

Sun expects to announce later in February its progress in its vision to bring SIM cards to PCs, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive vice president of software, said at an analyst conference here Wednesday.

"Wouldn't it be interesting if you could use the SIM card in your phone in your PC to identify yourself?" Schwartz asked. Many companies would be interested in such a feature, because identifying a PC user would make it easier to sell protected content such as digital music, he argued.

"Anonymity tends to go hand in hand with mischief," he said. "Authentication tends to eliminate this mischief."

Sun said in 2003 that more than 400 million Java Cards have been issued. SIM cards in phones are the most common example, but Java Card technology also is used to identify more than 4 million Defense Department employees and 24 million citizens of Taiwan.

Sun hinted at a SIM card deal in 2003, saying phone services carriers may be involved. "You may see some carriers start creating relationships with PC manufacturers, so PC manufacturers are shipping their PCs with a SIM in them. The SIMs will be branded by the carriers," Schwartz said when discussing a Java branding campaign.

Some Dell computers ship with equipment to read chip-enabled smart cards such as Java Cards.