There are many cases where software methods are sufficient, of course, but higher grades of security might be required by certain applications.
More standard software stacks are needed to link the hardware authenticators to the users’ systems and, ultimately, to websites and servers so that trusted connections are better established. The Internet will likely not tolerate too many proprietary methods of authenticating users, and the likely outcome is a suite of protocols and APIs that become industry standards.
If the websites have a standard API that enables them to immediately interface to “any” hardware or software authenticator on the user’s computer, then changing authentication schemes will be a simple configuration change.
It would be really beneficial for the industry to provide a path that eventually achieves a unified way for users to log in websites regardless of the devices they are using. With the adoption of hardware and stronger software authentication into different platforms, the industry will be marching toward providing standard authentication techniques -- a dream discussed by many.
Recognized in the industry as the "inventor of SSL," Dr. Taher Elgamal led the SSL efforts at Netscape. He also wrote the SSL patent and promoted SSL as the Internet security standard within standard committees and the industry. Dr. Elgamal invented several industry and government standards in data security and digital signatures area, including the DSS government standard for digital signatures. In addition to serving on numerous corporate advisory boards, Dr. Elgamal is the Chief Security Officer at Axway, a global provider of multi-enterprise solutions and infrastructure. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University. View more of his blog posts here.