Microsoft ambushes Bluetooth

Mugging may hurt assailant more...

Microsoft has knifed Bluetooth by refusing to support the technology in Windows XP.

"The format still seems to have some bugs in it... It looks like Bluetooth is not ready for prime time" Carl Stork, general manager of the Windows division, told EE Times at WinHEC last week. Stork added, we presume with a straight face, that "we wouldn't want to ship something that doesn't work".

Given Redmond's penchant to gear its annual OS revisions around the minor driver model or stack modifications, Windows Bluetooth support will be in likelihood be delayed well into 2002. It's not impossible that Microsoft could release the drivers as part of some XP driver pack - just highly unlikely.

To be fair, Stork's reasoning has a certain justification. The Bluetooth specification is enormously complex, and debugging is taking place through early implementations as much as it is through the plugfests.

But there's a difference between leading from the front, and being dragged from behind. Stork could have added that he thought Bluetooth would cut it eventually, but if he made such comments, they weren't reported.

Redmond's take on Bluetooth will be familiar to anyone whose followed Microsoft's support - and we use the term loosely - of the Bluetooth predecessor, iRDA.

After building some very basic support in the OS, Microsoft shot off and made an OBEX implementation of its own that was pretty much guaranteed not to work. OBEX (object exchange) is the useful part of the protocol: as it is, Windows notebooks can recognise infra-red capable devices, but not to the extent of doing anything useful with them. With Windows 2000, it gave up the charade completely.

But such is the momentum behind Bluetooth, it may not matter too much. Last year's Bluetooth developer conference in San Jose saw some impressive PC demos from Bluetooth SIG founders Toshiba and IBM, among others, using stacks they'd written themselves. If Redmond stalls, the world won't wait for it to catch up. ®

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