Taking on what it calls the "cable overload," Microsoft yesterday 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 connection, can function as a hub for up to seven Bluetooth-enabled devices. These devices can be up to 9m 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 plans to release a Bluetooth software development kit in May, 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.