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Gemplus, Xicor debut new smart cards

The two vendors are releasing new cards with an eye on the electronic commerce and Internet security markets.

    Two smart card vendors, one an industry heavyweight and the other an upstart, are releasing new cards with an eye on the electronic commerce and Internet security markets.

    The newcomer is Xicor (XICO), which announced both a secure memory chip and a smart card based on the chip. Gemplus, a French firm with hefty market share in smart cards, said it's shipping its GPK4000, which it bills as the first smart card to combine digital signatures, on-card generation of cryptographic keys, and electronic payments.

    Smart cards are plastic cards the size of credit cards that contain a computer chip that can be programmed or filled with memory.

    The Gemplus card will be used in the version 2.0 release of ImagineCard, a security system for corporate applications and Web services created by Hewlett-Packard, Informix, and Gemplus.

    The GPK4000, with a cryptographic coprocessor, is targeted for e-commerce and computer security applications. The card can store digital certificates, which are used on the Net to vouch for the identity of a user, and was designed to support the Secure Sockets Layer version 3.0 standard for mutual authentication of clients and Web servers.

    GPK4000 is Gemplus's second public key smart card; the GPK2000 was announced last year, and the company expects to add to the offerings.

    Xicor, best known for making low-power, programmable computer chips, announced both a chip, its X76F128 secure SerialFlash memory chip, and a smart card, called X76F128Y, which uses the chip. Xicor bills the card--its first entry in the smart card market--as the industry's highest density secure smart card.

    Xicor also will provide services such as printing and labeling smart cards according to customer specifications. It is targeted for uses in telecommunications, transportation, health care, security, vending machines, and electronic tickets.

    The card and chip both feature a 128-kbit and a separate 512-bit serial EEPROM memory array. The chip and card use five different passwords to protect its memory.

    Xicor is shipping both the chip and the smart card in sample quantities, with full production shipments due by year's end. The smart card is priced at $5.95 each in quantities of 10,000. The chip is priced at $4.95 each in quantities of 10,000.