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MS to join Bluetooth in December, without get-out on IP

No special deals on licence conditions, even for Microsoft, says Ericsson

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Microsoft will officially announce that it has joined the Bluetooth SIG early next month, it seems inevitable. But it seems equally inevitable to that Redmond will not get all the variations in terms and conditions it's thought to have been seeking. As revealed here last week (see story), Microsoft is already beavering away to build support for Bluetooth into its platforms, despite the fact that officially the company isn't a Bluetooth member. The world and its dog bar Microsoft, however, supports Bluetooth, which is intended to be a cheap, ubiquitous wireless standard allowing practically everything to talk to everything else, and it's difficult to see how it could fail to take off, even if Microsoft actively opposed it. Microsoft however had two problems with Bluetooth. First of all it wasn't one of the five founder, leading and controlling members, and second Bluetooth's IP policy is decidedly MS-hostile. By signing up to the SIG you agree to giving up your rights to anything you contribute to the Bluetooth standard. The Bluetooth licensing Ts & Cs are really quite GPL-ish, and Microsoft hasn't historically been that kind of company. But it can't be working on Bluetooth without having already cut a deal in private, or at the very least to have one agreed in principle. The next likely opportunity for an announcement is the Bluetooth conference in Los Angeles early next month, so we reckon that's probably going to be the day. Microsoft will inevitably be recruited to an expanded version of the founding members' group, and it's rumoured that this will go up from five to nine or ten. It's not clear who the others are but more anally retentive readers might like to read their way through the thousand-plus entries in the SIG membership lists and figure out who's big and not there. But it's now highly unlikely that the IP deal will be changed because of Microsoft's entry. Staff from founder company Ericsson, speaking here yesterday at a Bluetooth briefing (report to follow), firmly declined to speculate about Microsoft joining, but were adamant that the Bluetooth Ts & Cs were set in concrete. "We can't change the rules for Microsoft, because then we'd have to change them for everybody else." That nails Ericsson's colours firmly to the mast, and leaves virtually no room for manoeuvre. You can however take a guess at what that will mean for Microsoft's Bluetooth policy. Microsoft does already operate a firm 'we adhere to open standards' policy as far as XML is concerned, and has yet to be caught pulling the old 'embrace, extend, engulf' gag. So maybe it's not such a big camel to swallow after all. ®

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