Microsoft to wait on Bluetooth backing in Windows XP

Microsoft Corp. officials on Wednesday said the software giant is rethinking its commitment to support Bluetooth in initial versions of its upcoming Windows XP operating system.

Due to the lack of "sufficient quantities of production-quality Bluetooth hardware, Microsoft cannot estimate when or how [Bluetooth] will be supported in Windows," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Bluetooth, a wireless PAN (personal area network) solution, is still in the infant stages of development and struggling with issues such as interoperability with other wireless devices, according to those familiar with the technology.

Microsoft's decision not to incorporate Bluetooth as a default utility in Windows XP leaves Bluetooth support in the hands of third-party Bluetooth vendors, according to Stacy Wu, an analyst at Mobile Insights in Mountain View, Calif.

"When technology [like Bluetooth] is early, it doesn't get incorporated as a default utility in the OS. You have a third-party vendor support that," Wu said, adding that Microsoft will also hold back XP OS support for early versions of USB 2.0.

But Microsoft's reluctance to be an early backer of Bluetooth could slow the development of the technology, Wu said.

"It's a chicken and egg question. [Bluetooth] could be harder to roll out now, as [developers] won't have one point of support: Microsoft. But Microsoft is also saying they don't see enough Bluetooth products on the market to test with and validate with," Wu said.

One of those third-party Bluetooth vendors, San Francisco-based Rappore Technologies Inc., is happy to pick up the Bluetooth torch dropped by Microsoft.

"Absolutely we are. It is very typical for this kind of technology that the more nimble, smaller companies can support it faster," said Ken Ebert, a senior engineer and co-founder of Rappore. "We can support and deploy Bluetooth right now, and even after Microsoft releases its [Bluetooth] stack, we'll still be adding value to it in the networking and security layers."

The news comes just weeks after Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates announced the availability of a Beta 2 version of Windows XP at WinHEC 2001, the company's hardware developer's conference in Anaheim, Calif. Windows XP is Microsoft's planned upgrade path for all of its existing OSes, and support for wireless technology like Bluetooth was part of the XP hype.

Greg Sullivan, a lead product manager at Microsoft, said that by the end of the year Microsoft will roll out a full suite of XP operating systems that will eventually replace all of Microsoft's current OSes, including the recently released Windows Millennium and Windows 2000.

Although Microsoft will continue its support for Windows 2000, Sullivan said the upgrade path for Windows 2000 is Windows XP Professional and that companies should not wait to begin working with Windows XP, even if they continue to deploy Windows 2000.

Likewise, a Windows XP Home Edition will eventually replace the recently released Windows Millennium Edition. A 64-bit edition of XP will also arrive later this year for client terminals attached to 64-bit servers as well as an embedded version of XP, Sullivan said.

The server-based components of Windows XP will likely ship sometime in 2002, Sullivan said.

Although users are not required to upgrade to Windows XP anymore than they are required to upgrade from Windows 95, Sullivan strongly suggested that companies begin to get a feel for the new OS.

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