Lost in the hoopla of Microsoft's numerous announcements at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) was the news that beta 2 of WinFX was available with full support for InfoCard, a technology that could radically change security on the internet.

WinFX is a core part of the Windows Vista operating system and a superset of the.NET framework and Win32 API. WinFX has been developed on Windows XP, so it will be available on both XP and Windows Server 2003 in addition to Vista.

It consists of four elements: Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), a new graphical foundation for 3D graphics; Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), a service-oriented messaging system; Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), which allows task automation; and InfoCard, a method for securely storing and transmitting personal identities.

The three Foundations have received considerable ink, but InfoCard has flown under the radar, until now. WinFX beta 2 is released under a Go-Live license, which means the code is in a particularly advanced state than the usual beta and Microsoft (Quote, Chart) is encouraging customers to deploy it in a live environment to see how well it operates.

"This beta is a culmination of the CTPs we've been releasing for the past year," said Ami Vora, product manager for WinFX at Microsoft. "We're thinking of WinFX as a development platform that people will use for the next ten years in scenarios as intense as monitoring patients in intensive care."

WinFX is largely feature complete and there shouldn't be any major changes to the feature set and programming model, she said.

However, there is something notably missing from InfoCard: support for RSA's SecureID authentication tokens. The reason for that is SecureID and other mechanisms are semi-proprietary, each with their own wire protocol and password exchange methods.

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