January 12, 2001, 11:22 AM — LAS VEGAS -- Bluetooth is a hot topic at many discussions here at Comdex, and though the promise of the wireless technology has yet to pan out with actual products available on the market, Microsoft is confident in its decision to put its considerable weight behind the wireless technology.
Bluetooth is a standard for short-distance wireless communications that connects devices at speeds of up to 1Mbps and maximum distances of 10 meters.
Wireless PANs (personal area networks) are where Microsoft "feels that Bluetooth is a great technology," said Mike Foley, a wireless architect at Microsoft, at a Wednesday panel discussion here titled "Wire or Wireless."
According to Foley, Microsoft will have Bluetooth embedded in the "full release" of the company's next-generation Windows operating system, currently codenamed "Whistler," as well as future releases of Windows 2000.
Whistler is Microsoft's latest attempt to further its .NET initiative and design operating systems that are more tightly integrated with both the Internet and the devices that connect to it. Microsoft is planning to release Whistler on the desktop in the second half of 2001, with server releases following soon after, Foley said.
"Microsoft will support the Bluetooth specification 1.1, which is expected in December [of this year] or January of next year and there will be specification-compliant devices soon after," Foley said.
The Bluetooth technology, first announced by L.M. Ericsson Telephone in 1998 as a way to cut the cords between its mobile telephone handsets and headsets, uses a small radio chip to replace cable connections in many devices, including laptops, headphones, and printers. Though there was been considerable anticipation about Bluetooth-embedded products, some vendors already believe that the technology's time has passed.
"I think Bluetooth is late. They tried to commoditize the technology before it was even invented and now it's too late," Mike Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive officer of Research in Motion (RIM), said during a Tuesday Comdex panel discussion.
Microsoft's Foley said that he understands why some may share Lazaridis' perspective on Bluetooth, but he believes the reports of Bluetooth's demise are premature. "I see too many people really working on it and too much development around it. I really don't think it's too late and that what Bluetooth can do is still compelling," Foley said.
According to Foley, users can expect to see a variety of Bluetooth products by the second quarter of 2001, including Microsoft's Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC.
"This may sound self-serving, but I think that Microsoft supporting Bluetooth within the operating system will do a lot to assure its place in the market," Foley said.