Passwords could be a thing of the past if Bill Gates has his way.

But the Microsoft chairman and chief software architect isn't endorsing a
virtual open door policy. Rather, security issues are key for the future of the
Internet, and Gates is pushing smart cards as tools to improve it.

"Over 99 percent of security problems are related to the fact that it is
difficult to administer (security policy) specifications," said Gates in a
keynote speech at the NetWorld+Interop 2000 conference on Tuesday.

Most security mistakes revolve around password and policy implementation. "The
answer is moving away from passwords and other ideas," he said. He called on the
industry to produce cheaper and simpler smart cards and biometric security

Windows will be wide open to smart cards. Five vendors plan to build Windows
smart cards for network authentication, secure corporate transactions, health
care information, electronic cash, and other uses.

Predictably Gates also touted Windows Reliability 2000 Online, a free Web-based
service where customers can get free troubleshooting tips to resolve problems
with Windows. The service, he said, will lead to the elimination of "blue
screens," or system crashes.