Microsoft shows Bluetooth hub, keyboard and mouse

Taking on what it calls the "cable overload," Microsoft Corp. on Thursday unveiled a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and mouse, plus a transceiver for PCs and said it would release a Bluetooth software development kit.

The wireless control devices and the Bluetooth transceiver should be available in stores in the second half of the year, Microsoft said, adding that it will continue to offer its existing 27MHz wireless keyboard and mouse products as a lower-cost alternative to Bluetooth. The announcement was made at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference.

The Bluetooth transceiver, which connects to the PC using a USB (Universal Serial Bus) connection, can function as a hub for up to seven Bluetooth-enabled devices. These devices can be up to 30 feet (9 meters) away from the hub, Microsoft said. Bluetooth is supported today in PDAs (personal digital assistants) and mobile phones, for example.

To help hardware makers and software developers building Bluetooth-compatible devices that work with Windows XP, Microsoft in May plans to release a Bluetooth software development kit, the company said.

Bluetooth is a specification for radio-based wireless links among devices. It allows users to clear the clutter of wires and set up a PAN (personal area network). Backers of the technology had expected it to reach critical mass by now, but support by hardware makers is still limited.

The specification is developed, published and promoted by the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) Inc., a trade association comprised of many vendors and backed by Microsoft.

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