Microsoft keyboard shows Bluetooth gaps

Thinking of getting a wireless keyboard and mouse? Microsoft may just have the answer with its new Bluetooth desktop, but there are still problems with interoperability

Microsoft has taken a simplistic approach with its Bluetooth keyboard and mouse that means the kit is unlikely to work with anything other than Windows XP -- for the moment at least.

ZDNet UK's review of the much-anticipated wireless keyboard and mouse found them to be an effective replacement for the wired versions, but restricted by a limited implementation of the Bluetooth profiles. They are also relatively expensive.

The experiences of ZDNet UK's reviewer make it clear that Microsoft's implementation of Bluetooth -- if not the Bluetooth standard itself -- still has some way to go before the promises of true, easy interoperability are realised. Getting a PC to talk Bluetooth to the keyboard and optical mouse requires Microsoft's new Bluetooth stack for Windows XP to be installed. In theory, once drivers for the keyboard and optical mouse have been installed and the Bluetooth transceiver plugged in, Plug and Play performs its magic.

But theory does not always translate into practice. ZDNet UK Labs' experiences with two notebook PCs turned out to be somewhat at odds with the promise of Bluetooth. On both notebooks (a Sony VAIO Z600TEK and a Hi-Grade Ultinote M6500), the "portable" USB Bluetooth adapter was not detected and the Plug and Play wizard refused to cast its spell. Different adapters had to be tried, and the system rebooted with and without the adapter in place before the transceiver was recognised.

When everything did work, it only did so for a few days, until the keyboard link suddenly stopped working, and the usual resort of uninstalling and reinstalling drivers failed to get it going again. A second keyboard did work, and the fact that the offending keyboard worked on another PC suggested a driver-related problem rather than a hardware fault.

Read the full review here.

Bluetooth technology is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), whose slogan is "All your mobile devices connected seamlessly." The original specification was made in terms of 13 specific connection scenarios and protocols for Bluetooth called 'profiles'. These profiles include service discovery, cordless telephony, serial port connection, headset, dial-up networking (DUN), LAN access, object exchange, file transfer and synchronisation.

In its current Bluetooth stack, from this original list of profiles, Microsoft has implemented the DUN profile, along with two more recent ones. These are the Human Interface Devices (HID) profile, which is specifically concerned with cordless mice and keyboards, and the Hard Copy Cable Replacement (HCR) profile for wireless printing. The HID profile is central to Microsoft's initial Bluetooth venture and, apart from the installation and stability issues, its implementation does appear to work.

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