Maosco Ltd., a technology consortium that grew out of the Mondex smart card program, has won a brand-name endorsement.

Discover Financial Services said last week that it would join American Express Co., Mondex parent MasterCard International, and eight others as voting members of London-based Maosco.

This puts Discover, the card unit of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., in a position to influence development of Multos, the multiple-application operating system being embedded in the silicon chips on Mondex and other smart cards.

Discover, a 10% owner of the U.S. franchise of Mondex International, adds to the array of card brands behind Multos: American Express, MasterCard and the associated Maestro and Cirrus deposit-access cards, and Eurocard and others under the umbrella of Europay International, a MasterCard affiliate.

"We have a critical mass lining up behind Maosco," said Maosco chief executive officer Nick Habgood.

The group stands in opposition to Visa International and its Open Platform specifications based on the Java programming language, though American Express also supports Java and is a co-owner with Visa of Proton World International in Brussels.

Maosco has been trying to emphasize its independence and promote its standard as one that even Visa could embrace. "American Express was the big one for us" - it signed in April - "and Discover is a further endorsement of that," Mr. Habgood said in an interview.

Multos licenses are royalty-free, and more than 250 have been issued.

"We believe Multos is fast becoming the platform of choice for the payments industry worldwide, and we fully intend to play a major role in its success and future development," said William Simmons, executive vice president of Morgan Stanley's Discover/Novus Network Services group of Riverwoods, Ill.

Mr. Habgood noted that Discover, with 46 million cards, is the largest single issuer in Maosco. It also runs its own network and is a major transaction acquirer, serving three million retailing and cash-access locations.

"They can take smart card products and services to all parts of the value chain," Mr. Habgood said. "They have a unique perspective that is lacking in the consortium today."

The company is not yet involved in a Mondex pilot.

Discover was in the original Mondex USA ownership group in 1996, along with units of Wells Fargo & Co., Chase Manhattan Corp., AT&T Corp. (which sold its card subsidiary to Citicorp), First Chicago NBD Corp. (now part of Bank One Corp.), Michigan National Corp., and MasterCard.

MasterCard shares a seat on the Maosco board with Mondex International, of which it owns 51%. The other members are American Express, Dai Nippon Printing, Discover, Europay, Fujistu, Giesecke & Devrient, Hitachi, KeyCorp (an Australian payment automation company unrelated to KeyCorp of Cleveland), Motorola, and Siemens.

Mr. Habgood said the card-issuing institutions represented directly in Maosco or indirectly through associations have a combined 800 million cards worldwide.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Cybermark, a specialist in smart card systems for college campuses and corporate sites, said it intends to introduce Microsoft Corp.'s Smart Cards for Windows operating system.

Cybermark said some of its customers - including Florida State University, Villanova University, and Huntington Bank of Columbus, Ohio - will test the Windows Card standard in various settings and services.

Proposed as a leveler of technical obstacles because it extends the ubiquitous Windows platform, Windows Card was introduced last month at the Cartes '98 exposition in Paris, with "beta tests" planned for early 1999.

Huntington Bancshares was listed then as a Microsoft partner, but the Cybermark plans were not revealed until last week. Huntington co-owns Cybermark with Battelle Memorial Institute and the Student Loan Marketing Association.

Cybermark vice president Thomas Burke said Microsoft is "a partner with unequaled credentials." Microsoft product manager Philippe Goetschel said Cybermark "will play an important role" in establishing Windows Card in North America.

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