Sun teamed with communications networker Lucent Technologies and encryption software company Echoworx to offer the subscription service, called Sun Secure Mail. Lucent has agreed to host the service while Echoworx will provide software. Sun will manage the provision of digital identities and message delivery.
The hosted service gives consumers the ability to encrypt e-mail at their desktops without changing their e-mail applications, said the companies, which are targeting ISPs and cable companies as potential customers.
"Service providers can immediately re-brand Sun Secure Mail and offer it as an instant-on service to their e-mail subscribers for a premium," Sun said in a statement.
The service should appeal to ISPs because they could charge consumers up to $12 a month for it without incurring a lot of extra costs, a Lucent representative said.
Sun emphasized the service's ease-of-use. To activate it, consumers would download a plug-in program and then send encrypted messages from any desktop e-mail or Web e-mail program.
To open the encrypted message, the recipient does not need to subscribe to the service or download any software, Sun said.
The service works with any messaging infrastructure, and ISPs do not need to install any software or equipment to use it, the company added.
The service is available initially only in the United States.