Microsoft Unveils Bluetooth Gear

Review: Microsoft cuts its first Bluetooth teeth.

No one clamors for more cables on his or her desktop, yet each PDA sync cradle, printer, storage card reader and input peripheral contributes to the spaghetti wad of wiring that hangs about my work spaces.

For a few years now, Ive been promised a solution in the form of Bluetooth, the short-distance, low-power wireless networking technology that is intended to make everyones life easier by getting rid of cables for all the things I plug into my computer.

Microsofts $159 Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth is the first product Ive seen that provides desktop users of Windows XP with a simple and sensible entree into the wireless world of Bluetooth and does so by Bluetooth-enabling the two most ubiquitous computer peripherals—the keyboard and mouse. (An $85, mouse-only version is also available.)

Microsofts Bluetooth gear requires Windows XP with Service Pack 1, which may give some users pause. (Several readers have written in complaining about assorted bugs in the service pack.)

However, the process of setting up Microsofts wireless system was probably the simplest of any Bluetooth setup Ive yet gone through, with the complexity of discovery and authentication among the separate desktop elements taking place behind a typical Windows wizard interface.

Most important, though, is that this wireless desktop provides users with a window to the wider (and, hopefully, widening) world of Bluetooth devices and does so simply and relatively cheaply. The transceiver that ships with the package can accept seven simultaneous Bluetooth connections, so when your cell phone provider gets around to providing Bluetooth-equipped handsets, youll be ready to roll.