Microsoft yesterday unveiled a Bluetooth-enabled wireless keyboard and mouse for Wintel PCs, and announced plans to release a Bluetooth software development kit.

The company has also developed a wireless Bluetooth transceiver for PCs. The devices should reach retail in the second half of the year.

Apple released Bluetooth software for Mac OS X last month, following Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ announcement that the standard would be supported in OS X. Microsoft’s devices, however, have been built for the company’s newest operating system, Windows XP.

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

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). Analysts and 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), a trade association comprised of many vendors, including Nokia and Microsoft.