French smart card specialist Gemplus SA has formed a separate business unit called Gemplus Software to further develop its offerings in that space, with units in France and Silicon Valley. The new unit was formed because of the trend toward open systems in the smart card market, with major companies such as Microsoft, Sun and IBM all moving in, as well as the fact that Gemplus’ customers had been calling for more services to be added to their product offerings. It also represents an opportunity for greater earnings. This is because while a new smart card typically has an 18-month development cycle, after which you don’t do much enhancement, with software you can do an early release with key customers, then produce multiple versions as you further enhance the product, explained Donna Jeker, vice president of the new unit. The first two products to come under Gemplus Software’s wing are GemMobile Remote Manager and GemSAFE. The first is a software package that enables GSM operators to activate subscribers over the air, integrating the new account with the operator’s billing systems. The second provides secure log-on for computer systems, e-mail encryption and SSL transactions over the Net. The unit’s mandate is to evolve these products and form a family with them, said Jeker. She explained that while the IT-related software will be developed by a Gemplus group in Silicon Valley, the telecoms-oriented part will be take forward by a group in France, since Europe is the main GSM market. The formation of Gemplus Software is, to some extent, the French company’s response to that ‘technology-in-search-of-an-application’ image which has long dogged smart cards. For instance, it will now, says Jeker, be able to build whole packages for network and system security, selling them into corporations without the client needing to have its own IT staff be familiar with smart card technology.