Gemplus Corp. said it has begun shipping GemXpresso RAD, a system for "rapid application development" smart cards.

The system is based on the Java Card 2.0 application programming interface and was demonstrated last week at the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco, a major showcase of the Sun Microsystems Inc. programming languages and breakthroughs it has spawned.

Gemplus said a banking, transportation, electronic commerce, or other smart card program can be developed and tested in a matter of days because of the speed and flexibility built into Java and the GemXpresso version of it. One of its benefits is the ability to test small applications, or applets, on computer workstations before loading them on to cards.

Gemplus is also taking its microprocessor platform up to 32 bits from the more constrained 8-bit processors of the prior generation.

"We were pioneers in the development of Java-technology-based operating systems, and with GemXpresso RAD we are the first company to launch a 32- bit, Java 2.0-based card," said John Landwehr, director of product marketing for the Gemplus Internet group.

A RAD kit containing a reader, two cards, software, and e-mail support costs $499 through May 1 and $799 thereafter. A professional kit with additional telephone technical support and two full days of training costs $3,999.

Gemplus said it will have a variety of 8-bit and 32-bit Java deployment cards available late in the year.

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