Microsoft to unveil RFID roadmap

Microsoft plans to target large corporations and small businesses with a blitz of new radio frequency identification products.
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor
Microsoft plans to publish this fall details of forthcoming products that support radio frequency identification, a wireless technology that could help retailers keep track of merchandise.

Javed Sikander, Microsoft's RFID program manager, said on Thursday that the company plans to add support for the wireless technology to its core software and is also working on RFID products for small businesses.

"Major retailers like Wal-Mart and Tesco rely on small suppliers, who often can't afford to buy expensive RFID services from several different suppliers," Sikander said. "They need an out-of-the-box RFID solution that they can just plug in."

The tracking technology uses chips fitted with radio antennas to send information about individual products, such as razors, to a store's computer network. Analysts say that the adoption of RFID technology could help retailers cut costs and improve delivery of supplies.

Sikander, who was speaking at the RFID Networking Forum in London, added that Microsoft was working to add functionality for the technology to its back-end software, so that other companies could develop services for large customers.

However, he declined to reveal full details of Microsoft's plans, explaining that the company was attending the Forum to "share its vision and direction, not its detailed road map." More details of Microsoft's strategy should be unveiled in the next three months.

"Some RFID products and services will be launched by Microsoft next year," Sikander said, adding that this would cover both the high-end market and the small and midsize market.

Microsoft published a survey on Thursday that found that 60 percent of companies either haven't heard about RFID or think they don't really understand it.

According to Sikander, more effort needs to be made to persuade companies that RFID has genuine potential and can generate a significant return on investment.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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