Intel is joining industry trade group The Liberty Alliance Project, which develops and promotes open security standards.

The chip maker will be added to the management board - the highest level in the organisation and responsible for overall governance of the group, including legal and financial operations. Management board members also get final voting authority for all Liberty-sponsored specifications, according to the Liberty Alliance.

Intel's decision to join the group signals wide market support for Liberty's approach to federated identity, a Liberty spokeswoman said. President of the Alliance, Michael Barrett said: "It's something we're pleased to see. We regard it as a good thing for the health of the Alliance to attract leaders in their space and Intel is certainly that."

Barrett acknowledged that the prospect of a hardware company like Intel joining a software standards group might strike some as odd. However, Intel employs a large number of software developers who write code that ends up in firmware, and on silicon, and uses Web services internally, he said. "Its entirely reasonable for a hardware manufacturer to look at (the Liberty Alliance) protocols to enable their business," he said.

Intel will be represented on the board by George Goodman, director of system software for Intel's corporate technology group. Goodman told us in an e-mail: "Authentication and identity management are critical to the success of new computer and communications usages. We are looking forward to working with our customers and member companies to make implementation [of Liberty Alliance standards] a reality across all the hardware platforms we provide."

In November, the Liberty Alliance published its Phase 2 specifications, completing the organisation's Identity Web Services Framework. That framework gives companies a road map for designing and deploying Web services that share user authentication information, which simplifies the management of user identities and passwords between Web services. Other Management board members include VeriSign, Sun and HP.