By Stephen Shankland; special to ZDNet News . . .
Sun Microsystems and several computing giants have joined mainstream businesses such as United Airlines, General Motors, Sprint, Sony and Fidelity Investments to outflank Microsoft's Passport service for saving and checking people's online identities.
As reported, the group goes by the name Liberty Alliance. Sun Chief Executive Scott McNealy plans to describe the group Wednesday in a teleconference from New York.
The effort will compete with Microsoft's Passport authentication service, a key part of the upcoming Windows XP operating system and Microsoft's .Net software-as-a-service strategy.
Microsoft already has 165 million registered Passport users. Sun started working on the effort a year and a half ago but only started building the 33-company coalition two months ago, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's senior vice president of corporate strategy and planning, said in an interview.
The alliance is working on a specification to simplify signing on to Internet services while making sure the appropriate businesses or computer users maintain control over their information, Schwartz said. The effort will include issues of business needs, public policy, privacy and techonology.
“What the Liberty Alliance is all about is giving business the tools and standards they need to be able to work with others and share only that information they deem to be appropriate and their consumers deem appropriate,” Schwartz said.
Technology companies in the alliance include Cisco Systems, Travelocity, Cingular Wireless, Nokia, RealNetworks, NTT DoCoMo, eBay, Gemplus, the Apache Software Foundation, Global Crossing, i2 Technologies, Intuit, Liberate Technologies, Entrust, VeriSign, RSA Security, Vodafone, Bell Canada, OpenWave and ActivCard. Other companies include Bank of America, American Airlines, and Dun & Bradstreet.
The effort will get bigger, Schwartz promised. “I would assume we'll see explosive growth in who will be a part of this,” he said.
Sun hopes Microsoft will join the effort, Schwartz added. “We have every interest to involve Microsoft in this. In fact, many of our parties have already called Microsoft,” he said. “We feel it's best for them to recruit (Microsoft), given that Microsoft has a bit of a grudge toward us.”
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