Microsoft Joins FIDO Alliance Board of Directors in Push For Open Specifications For Universal Strong Authentication

Nineteen days remain in 2013, and the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) Alliance is still announcing high-profile initiations. Earlier this fall, FIDO piqued the industry’s interest with news of it’s rapid growth: in the eight months proceeding its official formation in February 2013, the Alliance had gained over 50 new members in support of its protocol.

That was October, and since then a number of members joined the fight against passwords. Today, FIDO distributed a press release stating that Microsoft has joined the Alliance as a member of its board of directors. As such, the company responsible for Windows, Xbox and the Surface tablet will sit alongside the likes of Google, PayPal, BlackBerry and a growing number of authentication solutions providers in 2014 – a year that promises to see the first FIDO compliant devices to hit the market.

This news, while exceptional, does not come as a surprise. Microsoft has been a vocal supporter of strong authentication. Fingerprint Cards AB, an active FIDO member has repeatedly cited Microsoft as a major supporter of its fingerprint biometrics on consumer electronics whenever making an optimistic forward looking statement. Additionally, the newly released Microsoft Xbox One is at the center of the conversations about biometrics gaming, with online accounts being managed by the console’s facial recognition technology.

FIDO’s focus seems to be on Microsoft’s mobile platforms, however. With this newest board member, the Alliance is bolstered by a strong mobile portfolio, and as was mentioned by Nok Nok Labs’ Jamie Cowper, smartphones and tablets are where the authentication transactions want to take place.

“Certainly one of the major learnings that we’ve had in the last twelve months has been the extent to which the market has been focussed on smartphone as the source and the place where the transaction wants to occur,” said Cowper during the December 2 webinar The Password is Dead. “We assumed that it was possible to use the smartphone more as a second factor for a laptop driven transaction – eCommerce, banking – but actually the reality is much more about driving the entire transaction from the mobile experience.”

David Treadwell, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft commented on the newly minted membership: “As a contributor to the FIDO Alliance working groups on next generation authentication, we look forward to furthering our innovation and thought leadership in the identity space.”

The FIDO Alliance is dedicated to fostering this kind of leadership. The nature of the consortium is one of cooperation between companies that would otherwise find themselves competing. By sharing technology, in a fight for a common goal of low-friction strong authentication across all devices companies that join FIDO are making a strong public stance against the password.

With a high profile member like Microsoft on the board of directors, FIDO will be going into 2014 ready to spread a post-password paradigm across a market filled with consumers that absolutely need personal security alternatives. With Google at its side, and Apple pursuing its own better-than-a-password Touch ID solution, it looks like what FIDO president Michael Barrett has been saying all year is proving accurate: 2013 has been the death of the password.