Windows XP still waiting for Bluetooth

As Microsoft forges ahead with USB 2.0 and other advanced connection technologies, Bluetooth is still lagging

Microsoft may be adding USB 2.0 to Windows XP this summer, but another advanced connection technology -- Bluetooth -- will not yet make the cut.

After initially deferring support for Bluetooth indefinitely, when Windows XP was launched last year, Microsoft in December said it would make an XP Bluetooth stack available by this summer. However, since then the company's plans have changed -- in April Bill Gates said that a download adding Bluetooth functionality to Windows XP would not be available until this autumn.

Microsoft unveiled details of Windows XP Service Pack 1, the operating system's first major makeover, this week. The update will be available for free download from Microsoft's site this summer, adding the ability to more easily choose competitors' applications over those of Microsoft, as well as security fixes, USB 2.0 and other features.

Bluetooth fulfils a similar function to USB connectors, but without wires. It is aimed at connecting peripherals such as printers, headphones, modems, mobile phones, handheld computers and other gadgets via a low-powered radio.

While Bluetooth is growing in acceptance, partly through its presence in millions of mobile phones, it has had a tougher time arriving on the desktop. Apple is currently offering a third-party USB Bluetooth add-on as well as a preview version of its Bluetooth connectivity software, but Microsoft is still preparing the release of a software development kit (SDK) for Bluetooth. The software company is carrying out its tests using radios from Silicon Wave and the UK's Cambridge Silicon Radio.

Microsoft said in April that the SDK would be released this month, but it has not yet appeared. A Microsoft spokesman said the SDK is still expected by the end of May.

"The thing that has held it back is the difficulty of getting a broad range of Bluetooth devices for testing," the spokesman said. "We want to ensure that when we do release (Bluetooth software) it will be an excellent experience. We are taking our time and doing a good job of it."

At the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in April, Gates announced Bluetooth hardware such as a keyboard and mouse for availability later this year. Microsoft will also sell a Bluetooth USB adapter later this year.

Research firm In-Stat/MDR projects that 100 million personal area networks will be installed this year, rising to more than 900 million in 2005. However, the firm has had to lower its estimates before.

News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.


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