Intel has signed an agreement with Wave Systems to use the company’s Embassy Trust Suite security software with a future Intel desktop motherboard.

The chip vendor said the agreement would accelerate efforts to develop ‘trusted computing’ technology, which promises to increase the security of data stored on computer hard drives using a combination of hardware- and software-based security.

A cross industry standards body, the Trusted Computing Group, was formed to create open specifications for trusted computing hardware and software that can be used on many platforms including PCs, servers, PDAs, and digital phones.

The deal will put Wave Systems' Embassy (Embedded Application Security System) software on a future Intel motherboard platform, scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2003, according to John Callahan, vice president of marketing and communications at Wave Systems.

Embassy is a hardware- and software-based technology that can be used for secure transaction processing and other data encryption functions on PCs, handheld computers and other devices.

In exchange for using Wave Systems technology, Intel will pay the company a royalty fee on each motherboard sold with the Embassy software, Callahan said.

Further terms of the agreement were not available.

Intel is just the latest big name to sign on with Wave Systems. In March, Wave Systems signed a licensing agreement with National Semiconductor Corp. to bundle Embassy with National Semiconductor's PC21100 SafeKeeper trusted platform modules.

The company hopes to take advantage of its software residing on components from Intel and National Semiconductor to sell services to users through subscription services, akin to the update services offered by desktop antivirus companies, Callahan said.

Users could sign up for programs like a document manager vault that would secure store user files or services store names, passwords and other personal information, he said.

Wave Systems also will offer an enterprise-level service that could be deployed to users over a corporate network, Callahan said.

While the Intel deal is good news for Wave, its impact on the broader PC market is harder to gauge, according to John Pescatore of Gartner Inc.

"Even if I took this new motherboard from Intel with the Wave software, if I ran [Microsoft's] Windows on top of it, I'm still going to have risks," Pescatore said.

Widespread application of trusted computing technology will only come with the next version of Windows, dubbed ‘Longhorn,’ which is scheduled for release in 2005, Pescatore said. Changes in the Windows kernel in that release will enable Windows to interact with trusted computing chip technology being developed by Intel, providing hardware-based encryption of sensitive data.

While the deal with Intel may be welcome for customers who were already considering deploying Wave's software on an Intel platform, it will probably not be enough to draw in uncommitted customers.

"Why should customers adopt Wave's technology now if, in two years, Microsoft is coming out with the same thing," Pescatore said.