As surely as Virginia is for lovers, CardTech/SecurTech West is for techies.
Held in the heart of Silicon Valley, this year's edition of the annual card industry conference, a fraction of the size of its East Coast counterpart, boasted speakers who made the region famous.
Keynote speaker Guy Kawasaki of Apple Computer Inc. was among those responsible for launching the ground-breaking Macintosh computer in 1984. The noted columnist and author gave a rousing speech to the crowd on how to "start a revolution" that brings smart cards to market.
The high-tech tone lasted throughout the two-day affair. Many of the 300 attendees at San Jose's Convention Center were residents of the area, and hip to the language of bits, bytes, and acronyms tripping off the tongues of speakers.
Mere mortals and the few bankers in the audience might have been less enlightened by the presentations from Netscape Communications Corp., Informix, Integrity Arts, and others.
Mr. Kawasaki's speech was the subject of conversation long after the computer whiz left the podium. Without the typical slides, graphics, and statistics, he used humor and common sense to impart a message to the audience: "How to Drive Your Competition Crazy."
Using David Letterman's top-10 format, the self-styled software evangelist explained how ailing Apple originally made its mark.
"We were trying to drive IBM crazy," said Mr. Kawasaki. "We were trying to send them back to the typewriter industry."
Though IBM ultimately prevailed, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple certainly rewrote the rules of computing.
Mr. Kawasaki challenged the audience to use his outline to get smart cards to the mainstream.
His first suggestion: "Change the rules of the game."
Introducing new products takes guts, confidence, and innovation, he noted. And he warned against perfectionism. "Once you get it good enough, ship it."
Another must: "Ignore management. The higher you go, the dumber the people get."
He praised the niche market approach as a means to achieving wide appeal. And taking a poke at market researchers, he quipped, "Leave the important stuff to the amateurs."
He advised executives to go into the field to get real-world answers from consumers.
When designing a product, "never ask a customer to do something you would not," he said.
In conclusion, he encouraged visionaries to disregard the naysayers. "I know (smart cards) are a great product," he said. "Go for it."
Microsoft Corp.'s Blair Dillaway followed the quirky Mr. Kawasaki with a more staid presentation. He said the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is committed to smart cards for "security, access, and information control." Microsoft is "making a big investment" in devices that use smart cards for the personal computer, he said.
Mr. Dillaway, program manager for Internet security, said standards developed by the PC/SC workgroup, an industry consortium led by Microsoft, have been posted on the company's Web site, at http://www.smartcardsys.com. The goal is to create standards that integrate smart cards with personal computers.
During a cocktail reception, the Smart Card Interoperability Group demonstrated the use of multiple branded cards in one terminal.
The group, initially limited to MasterCard International and American Express Co., has expanded to include Mondex International and Visa International.
The team showed a terminal that holds the secret keys of three smart card systems in one special operating card. Still in the formation stages, the rivals are working together to ensure merchants will have one terminal at the point of sale, an issue considered critical to the success of smart cards.