Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured right) has announced Microsoft intends providing Internet authentication and verification services.

The move will put Microsoft in competition with VeriSign, who acquired Network Solutions earlier this month in order to offer similar services. Microsoft also announced its purchase of a 20 per cent stake in Real Names, the universal naming and keywords company.

The moves are part of Microsoft's effort to deliver a new generation of mega-services that will integrate clients with Web servers.

Ballmer said he expects a mega-service handling authentication and verification would be a natural offering from a company focused on operating systems. He added: "In the world of the Internet, you have to ask yourself what is an operating system?"

"Web sites and clients will integrate with intelligence in both places," he said. This level of integration will raise new questions about what the definition of an operating system is when Web services need to span clients and servers, he claimed.

According to Ballmer, advances in Internet technology will require Microsoft to deliver a suite of mega-services that will make it easier for client systems of all types to manage and interact with Web sites.

VeriSign officials declined to comment on the Microsoft move.