Okta CEO says new FastPass will ‘blow you away’ with passwordless login experience

Okta kicked off Okta 20, its first and what it hopes will be its last virtual annual user conference, with the FastPass announcement, which leverages new Okta Platform Services to create a secure biometrics-based login experience.

Another day, another virtualized IT customer conference, with this one being high-flying identity vendor Okta. The big news at this one was actually the last of the announcements made by CEO and co-founder Todd McKinnon in the virtualized opening keynote on Wednesday. The announcement – still a long ways from actually being a product – is Okta FastPass, which the company describes as the first truly passwordless login experience. It lets employees securely access their applications on any device without ever needing to enter a password.

“This will blow you away,” McKinnon told his audience from the safe distancing of his own home, a concession to the coronavirus that moved the event online in the first place. “It enables passwordless authentication across all major devices. It works across all things connected to Okta. And it eliminates dependence on Active Directory.”

Okta FastPass is the product of Okta’s recent transition from an enterprise SaaS federated identity management provider to being a broader platform player through their Okta Identity Cloud, with their Okta Platform Services executing a much broader range of use cases. McKinnon began his new product announcements outlining three more of these services: Okta Identity Engine, Okta Workflows, and Okta Devices.

“Okta FastPass is the result of combining three Platform Services: Okta Directories, Okta Identity Engine, and Okta Devices,” McKinnon said.

The Okta Devices Platform Service is what enables the Okta Identity Cloud to collect and evaluate device identity and endpoint signals, through its advances in device context. Users will log into the Okta Verify app – once. At that point, a persistent session is enabled, so that device biometrics will handle all further authentications. When the user, going forward, logs in to any Okta-managed browser or app, they skip the password and use just the biometrics to unlock their device.

A pair of product marketing managers then demoed FastPass, just as if it was at a live event, with the concession today of course being that they were at another location.

“It’s magic when you combine these platform services together, for an industry-first passwordless experience,” McKinnon summed up.

FastPass will be available in early access in Q4 2020, and will support iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows devices. If Okta keeps to their typical schedule, look for it to be released a year from now at Okta 21.

While Okta 20 is a virtual event, the company attempted to capture the look and feel of a live event as much as possible. The keynotes were not pre-recorded presentations for on-demand use, but were scheduled to be delivered at a set time, just like at a live event. Just like at a live event, delays are part of the process. McKinnon’s keynote started 20 minutes late, with a tab popping up on the screen apologizing and indicating the delay was to allow more people to get into the room – just like at a live event. McKinnon had a parade of customers and vendor partners as part of his presentation, like at a live event, except that like McKinnon, they were addressing the audience from their own homes.

The Okta 20 interface is an interesting one, with a hub format that reminded me at least of an early-century video game, where you scrolled around an imaginary lobby and clicked on keynotes, breakouts and other features. One nice touch – Partner Pavilions North and South – is a virtual show floor, where each of the event’s 35 sponsors has a virtual booth. Virtual attendees can chat with each of the vendors and see their demos and news. It will be interesting to get feedback on how successful this feature was. There’s also an ‘Ask the Experts’ section where users can request meetings.

McKinnon concluded his keynote by bringing his wife on camera, something he said he had long wanted to do, and which is easy to do from home – less so on a stage in Vegas or at the Moscone. Still, he made it clear his hope that virtual Okta 20 is a one-shot deal, telling basically every customer that he looked forward to actually meeting them live next year.

This is a two-day event, and continues today, Thursday. Registration is required – again, just like at a live event.

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