Bluetooth: Symbian to squash Windows CE?

Microsoft could be forced to join the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) sooner rather than later if it wants widespread acceptance for the Windows CE platform on mobile devices.

Microsoft has continued to drag its heels on officially embracing Bluetooth blaming a lack of real standards. But the company's desire to be a force within the wireless computing market and its on-going competition with Symbian's Epoc32 operating system which fully supports Bluetooth, could see Microsoft being pulled into the technology or losing out to Symbian.

"Microsoft wants to get on the kind of devices that have already said they are interested in implementing Bluetooth," said Andrew Till, technology strategist at Psion. "There is no doubt Bluetooth will be successful and third party developers are keen to support it. Synchronisation and device discovery software is already being developed but unless Microsoft includes it [Bluetooth] as a core component of its operating system, the third party developers may find the OS unstable for true wireless connectivity."

Till suggested Microsoft could try to stall as it weighs-up the various wireless initiatives but "when it sees a host of mobile devices it wants to partner with supporting the technology, it will be forced to join Bluetooth. My feeling is that the vendors cannot allow Microsoft to drag the technology down. It's either Microsoft joins or we go on without them."

At the start of the year, Microsoft CE product manager Dilip Mistry said Microsoft could not and would not commit itself to consortia like Bluetooth until it obtained support from the standards bodies. "We don't want to get caught in a proprietary route," he said.

WirelessKnowledge, Microsoft's joint venture with Qualcomm, has already committed itself to the Wireless Ready Alliance (WRA) in the US, a body of companies (still small in number) to promote wireless solutions. Microsoft is also actively researching various wireless technologies and has a US Bluetooth specialist. It has only recently started to make noises within its development literature about the benefits of Bluetooth and even discussed the issue at its development engineers conference, WinHEC 99 in March.

"My feeling," says Till, "is there is a definite momentum towards Bluetooth at the top level, but whether or not the company will join the SIG and want to take a co-development is still open to question."

Take me to the Bluetooth special