Windows 8 to offer native Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi direct, NFC support

Microsoft's new OS, Windows 8, will allow users a greater freedom of wireless connectivity compared to past Windows programs, but will other companies follow their lead?
By Phillip Maddocks, Market Analyst, IMS Research September 28, 2011

Microsoft has recently announced that its next operating system, Windows 8, will offer support for a whole bunch of new wireless connectivity standards, including Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi Direct, and NFC. If PCs or portable computing devices (such as notebooks or tablet PCs) include both Windows 8 and the associated radios, this paves the way for them to connect to a wide range of devices such as wireless PC peripherals, health or fitness monitoring devices, and other consumer electronics products – without the need for an additional dongle.

But will PC and portable computing device manufacturers see the value in integrating low-power wireless radios? The signs of this are good with Acer recently announcing that it’s Acer Aspire S3 is set to contain Bluetooth low energy (v4.0) capability.

Windows 8 is targeted at both static and portable computing devices (more specifically, at tablets and netbooks) with the announcement that there will be an ARM processor compliant version of Microsoft’s latest operating system. With most tablets and netbooks, ‘dual-mode’ Bluetooth low energy is set to be incorporated as standard as a direct replacement to classic Bluetooth which is already included in many of these devices. IMS Research projects that, in 2015, annual shipments of dual-mode Bluetooth low energy ICs for portable computing devices (notebooks, netbooks and tablet PCs) will top 200 million units.

I think that the fact that Bluetooth low energy is being natively supported in the next generation of Windows operating system is a massive boost for the creation of an ecosystem of connectable devices. This is an area where, by the end of 2015, we are expecting shipments of single-mode Bluetooth low energy devices to exceed 300 million units,* across a wide range of application areas.

For some application areas, however, Bluetooth low energy will face some very stiff competition from Wi-Fi Direct, as low-power Wi-Fi solutions become increasingly available. Although the power consumption of Bluetooth low energy is significantly less than Wi-Fi Direct, certain Wi-Fi solutions are still being able to achieve an acceptable battery life within certain applications, such as PC peripherals. Wi-Fi Direct PC peripherals are already able to communicate with Windows’ current operating system, Windows 7, through the use of a software-base Access Point (SoftAP) which allows the connection of peripherals without the need for an access point. IMS Research projects that, by 2015, over 70 million low-power Wi-Fi ICs will have been shipped for use in PC peripherals.**

Related reports

*The World Market for Low-Power Wireless Modules – 2011 Edition

**The World Market for Low-Power Wireless-enabled Consumer Electronics – 2011 Edition