Microsoft still mulling Liberty Alliance, says Belluzzo –

Microsoft Corp. is still examining the Liberty Alliance Project, an Internet user authentication system, and has yet to reach a decision on whether to join the growing number of companies supporting the system, the company's president said Thursday.

"The Liberty Alliance is something that I think we are still trying to understand in terms of what the exact intention of that alliance is, in terms of the product that they intend to bring to market or how they intend to function so at this point in time," said Richard Belluzzo, president and chief operating officer of Microsoft, speaking at a Tokyo press conference.

"We're evaluating it, we're trying to understand what the Liberty Alliance stands for. It was initially started, I think, mostly to counter-attack (Microsoft's Passport authentication system) but if we share the same vision and same goals and same vision going forward we may share some opportunities."

The Liberty Alliance Project was announced in late September and has as its goal the creation of a ubiquitous, single log-in and decentralized authentication system for online services, accessible from any device connected to the Internet. Led by Sun Microsystems Inc., the group includes America Online Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., eBay Inc., Nokia Corp., NTT DoCoMo Inc., RealNetworks Inc., RSA Security Inc., Sony Corp., Verisign Inc., Vodafone Group PLC. and other companies.

Microsoft's began pushing its own Passport system in late 1998 and recently announced plans to support Kerberos security in the system in the hopes of gaining wider support for the service from other retailers and Web site operators. Like Liberty Alliance, it also allows users to authenticate themselves once and then visit a network of Web sites without the need to log in again.

"We have been working on (Passport) for several years now," said Belluzzo. "We've made very good progress in terms of users and well as in terms of partners. Today it is a reality and it is something we are very excited of."

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