Sun, others to issue competitor to MS Passport

Sun Microsystems Inc. has brought together a host of companies in an alliance to offer an alternative to Microsoft Corp.’s Passport online authentication service, Sun announced Wednesday.

The group, code-named Liberty Alliance Project, aims to create a ubiquitous single sign-on and decentralized authentication system for online services, accessible from any device connected to the Internet.

“This is an alternative to Passport and Hailstorm. Project Liberty will allow users to decide what information to pass on and customer data won’t be controlled by one party,” said Hans Appel, Sun’s chief technology officer (CTO) for Northern Europe.

The Liberty Alliance Project intends to create a universal digital identity service based on open standards. Users should be able to log in once and be authenticated for all the online services supporting the Liberty standard. Customer data, such as phone numbers, addresses, credit records and payment information, will be secure, according to a statement on the Liberty Alliance Project’s Web site.

Businesses benefit because they will only need to adopt one technology to give access to all users, no matter what device is used, the group says. The alliance envisions users signing on with cellular phones, portable computers, televisions, cars, point of sales terminals and the traditional desktop computer.

Participation is open to all commercial and noncommercial organizations. Among the 33 initial supporters are IBM Corp., Nokia Corp, General Motors Corp., NTT DoCoMo Inc., Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, and Bank of America Corp. There are unspecified fees for membership at various levels.

The announcement comes exactly a week after Microsoft surrendered to mounting legal and industry criticism and said it would consider handing over management of Passport to a federated group made up of rivals and corporate partners. Microsoft also said it would open Passport to work with similar competing services.

The charter members of the Liberty Alliance Project expect to finalize an alliance agreement regarding organization and joint development of intellectual property within 60 days, according to the statement.

Details of the Liberty Alliance Project is at

Sun, in Palo Alto, Calif., is at