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IBM to build crypto-on-a-chip into all its PCs

Wants to create an "industry standard", but rivals will have to wait for it

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IBM will tomorrow launch an all-in-one encryption chip designed to protect documents stored on desktop PCs and servers. The chip, as yet unnamed, will be initially installed in IBM's 300PL PC, but will soon be built into the company's full line of desktop systems. Actually, the 300PL may not feature the new chip since it's based on Intel's i820 chipset and, as Intel revealed today, the i820's release has been delayed indefinitely. IBM said users will pay no more for a hardware encryption-enabled PC than they will for a machine without the chip. In addition to handling key encryption -- the technology most usually associated with document protection -- the chip will also generate and verify digital signatures. IBM's plan is clearly to make its machines more appealing to the growing number of computer users buying desktops solely to surf the Internet at do a little online shopping. The move should also make its PCs more attractive to companies performing business-to-business transactions over the Net. Of course, Big Blue is keen to be seen as acting in everyone's interest here, which is why the company's general manager for desktop systems, Anne Gardner, told Reuters: "We want this to become an industry standard. We want this on as many desktops as possible." However, IBM clearly wants to retain a lead, which no doubt explains Gardner's reluctance to discuss any plans the company may have to licence the technology to motherboard vendors. All she would say on the subject was a vague "you may see something along those lines in the future". Probably IBM will first want to see how attractive the technology is to punters. At least the approach of using an ancillary encryption chip should keep IBM safe from the nightmare Intel faced when it attempted to railroad CPU ID numbers on users. ® Related Stories Christmas online shopping bonanza predicted White House cypher proposal could upstage Congress US crypto export controls are bunk

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