Windows goes wireless

In what's shaping up to be a big week for Bluetooth announcements, Intel will announce on Tuesday that it plans to work with Microsoft to make its Bluetooth software "native to the Windows operating environment by the first half of 2001", according to an Intel representative.

In the interim, Intel will license its current Bluetooth software stack to other vendors. The Bluetooth software stack is already compatible with Windows 98 and 2000, and offers the rudimentary Bluetooth features of file synchronisation, data transfer, dial-up networking, and the capability to identify other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Intel also announced a new corporate division, The Wireless Products Operation, which will be based in San Diego. The new Intel division will build Bluetooth PC adapters as well as data and voice access points that will ship to OEMs later this year, said the representative.

Tuesday's Intel news coincides with the kick-off of the Bluetooth Congress 2000, in Monte Carlo. Billed as "The World's Largest Bluetooth Event", Bluetooth Congress 2000 has been expanded to reflect the maturation of Bluetooth product development and the expected proliferation of Bluetooth devices, according to event organisers.

On Monday, Motorola, which is also trying to get its Bluetooth silicon into OEM devices, announced deals to supply both IBM and Toshiba with its Bluetooth technology.

Motorola also announced a Bluetooth car kit, which company officials said would enable automobile manufacturers to deploy Bluetooth features in mixed domestic and foreign car offerings by model-year 2002.

With the Bluetooth interoperability specification all but shored up by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a multivendor SIG of over 1800 companies including Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Toshiba, and others, the trick now is time to market, as the company that picks up the most momentum with its Bluetooth-enabled products stands the best chance of being the standard to follow.

But one analyst feels that cell phone companies may have the advantage.

"I would tend to be a little doubtful that Bluetooth will be a Wintel-dominated thing," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight 64 in Saratoga, California. "The other people involved are pretty awesome players, like Nokia and Ericsson. And as Bluetooth is not just for PCs, cell phones will probably set the standard. But the key thing here is not whether or not any software implementation dominates, but that you have interoperability from all different vendors."

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